Rebel Club of Memphis - meeting recap

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Excitement and information were the two main courses for the Rebel Club of Memphis as it held its annual summer meeting on Thursday inside the packed out Memphis Botanic Garden. A large group of supporters gathered for food and fellowship followed by speeches from three head coaches and athletic director Pete Boone. Go inside for details.

Pete Boone kicked off the night of guest speakers in an informative fashion with talk of the "great things" that were going on at Ole Miss, along with the progress of the facilities that are being upgraded or built from the ground up. Boone highlighted Ole Miss' recent fourth-place conference finish and first-place Western Division finish in the all-sports men's standings

The athletic director thanked the fans for their attendance by quoting a couple baseball players, who said that atmosphere and fan support were two important reasons why they chose the Rebels. Also, Boone stated that the current coaching staff was the best top to bottom that Ole Miss has ever produced.

On the facility front, progress is being made at different speeds. Information on final plans will be released on the baseball expansion within two to three weeks with the hope that bids will be out in two to three months. The plan is not to cut back and for something to be visibly completed before the 2008 first pitch. This is necessary considering Ole Miss has sold more season tickets than there are seats each of the past three years. They are projecting 4,500 season tickets sold next season.

The basketball practice facility is scheduled to be a $10 million-$12 million facility and just more than $4 million has been pledged at this point. Six million dollars are needed to begin working with architects and to start a "full-fledged" fundraising campaign.

Tickets and revenue sources are funding the baseball expansion, while the BPF is being carried strictly by donations.

There are plans for a $2 million tennis complex renovation, and $1.1 million has already been raised. The project is scheduled for completion by next summer.

Women's basketball coach Renee Ladner, baseball coach Mike Bianco and football coach Ed Orgeron all respectively followed Boone to the podium and doled out information with an assortment of one-liners mixed in.

Ladner, who was the only coach not to receive a standing ovation, joked about coming into town with the heavy hitters in Orgeron and Bianco. Instead of requesting a standing ovation for herself, she asked everyone to stand up and applaud Carol Ross for being the leader behind last year's Elite Eight team.

The women's basketball coach also quipped about planning to give Van Chancellor a hard time since he is at LSU, and Ladner said Chancellor wasn't near as big of a problem as the 6-6 Sylvia Fowles is.

Bianco thanked Memphis for their support and the presence on the roster over the last few seasons. Next, the baseball coach referenced Coach Orgeron's recruiting ability and said he has two commitments of his own to announce.

"I'm ahead of the game because I am ahead of Coach O, but we got a 2017 commitment earlier today after talking to the mom," Bianco said. "And then, we got the younger brother, a 2018 commitment. How about a big hand for Ben and Drew Bianco over there. I know you think it is easy, but both parents are LSU grads so it was tough. It wasn't an easy recruiting battle, but we won it out."

Bianco, who is going into his eighth season in Oxford, pointed out that Ole Miss is one of two teams out of 291 schools in Division I to host regionals each of the last four seasons. The Rebels have won more SEC games the last five seasons that any other school and are the only school to post a winning conference record each of the last five seasons.

The school record for wins was 40 when Bianco arrived, but now, Ole Miss has averaged 40 wins over his seven seasons. He thanked the fans and the administration for this because more than 90 percent of recruits that visit campus end up signing.

In closing, Bianco talked of a strong incoming class and mentioned that seven starters were returning from last season, the most since he has been here. He said that 2008 could very well be the best team he has put on Swayze Field, and that it was time to go to Omaha.

Thanks to the previous speakers, the capacity crowd was already fired up when Orgeron took the stage as the keynote guest. The third-year head coach wasted no time in exciting those in attendance.

"There is a lot of passion in the neighborhood," Orgeron said. "You know, when I come to Memphis, I always seem to stir things up a little bit. And I like it. And you can tell your neighbors, Sept. 1, we are coming to stir it up again."

Enthusiasm is always present with Orgeron, but he delved into honest information as well. The Louisiana native ran through the positions and then finished with a quick question and answer session.

Orgeron talked about incoming athletes and eligibility issues at length. According to Orgeron, A.J. Jackson will most likely not qualify, Ted Laurent is on campus and Chris Strong has completed his coursework but awaits approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

The quarterback position came up during the Q and A segment, and Orgeron seemed adamant about Seth Adams being the man to beat heading into fall camp. Admitting that it was a mistake to announce Brent Schaeffer as the starter prior to last season. He also made sure to mention that transfer quarterback Jevan Snead was a 4.0 student.

Another starter that has to regain the position is cornerback Nate Banks. Dustin Mouzon and Cassius Vaughn were the first two defensive backs mentioned by Orgeron, who said that Banks struggled and will have to work his way back to the first team.

Orgeron said it is impossible to replace Patrick Willis but that a stronger and deeper defensive line will go a long way toward that. He singled out Tony Fein during talk of the linebackers, due to Fein's maturity and ability to overcome the normal obstacles and learning curve of entering a new system.

The final subject of the night was fan support and the continuing priority of having people in the Grove before the game and the stadium during the game. Orgeron asked for patience but also said that there would soon be a team worth being proud of.

"I have a lot of confidence in what we're doing," he said. "We're pounding the rock. And we will continue to pound the rock until it breaks. I know exactly what you want at Ole Miss. We want the same thing. It's coming. We have a great class coming in, stay with us, and you will be happy with our program."

The Rebel Club of Memphis produced a check worth $5,000 to the scholarship fund and another of the same amount to the UMAA Athletic Fund. The two funds have goals of $100,000 endowments, but they are currently at $60,000 and $40,000 respectively.

Also, it was recognized that three Ole Miss students or graduates will be participating in this year's Miss America pageant; Miss Arkansas, Miss Tennessee and Miss Illinois. Miss Mississippi is from Oxford, and her mother was an Ole Miss graduate.

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