Hartwell staying put at Ole Miss

UMAA Senior Executive Associate Athletics Director John Hartwell has recently been the center of the athletic director search at South Alabama. As of Monday night, he has withdrawn his name from consideration and is staying at Ole Miss. Read why inside.

It's not that the South Alabama athletics director's job did not appeal to newly-designated Ole Miss Senior Executive Associate AD John Hartwell, who was also recently named the Chief Operations Officer of the UMAA Foundation.

After all, Mobile is his hometown and his ultimate career goal is to be an AD.

He had no choice but to strongly consider the Jaguars' position, of which he was, by most accounts, the front runner.

But when he and his wife, Heather, weighed everything, John opted to tackle the new challenges and opportunities presented to him by his recent promotion at Ole Miss and stay the course in Oxford.

Monday afternoon, Hartwell withdrew his name from consideration for the South Alabama AD post.

"(Retiring South Alabama AD) Joe Gottfried and I have been friends for 30 years. I played high school ball with his son, (former Alabama hoops coach) Mark," Hartwell explained. "When Joe called me and asked me if I would be interested in the position and told me he thought I would be a perfect fit due to my experience at Ole Miss and hometown knowledge, I had to pay attention. They have a lot of things going for them for an up-and-coming Division I program. I had to listen because my career goal has always been to become an AD.

"At the end of the day, however, (Ole Miss AD) Pete (Boone) and Chancellor (Dan) Jones came to me with an enticement and job description to stay that I could not turn down. Heather and I are extremely happy here and look to be longtime Rebels. We would both like to stay here the rest of our lives and my promotion and new duties fit into my career plan and allow us to stay at a place we love and a university we love."

Hartwell was flattered by South Alabama's interest in him, but when he put everything on paper, it came up Ole Miss.

"I wasn't looking for another job, but to be courted made me feel good," he smiled. "To be wanted here made me feel good too. As Pete said, their interest in me was a reflection on the job I have done at Ole Miss and a reflection on the job we do in the whole athletic department here. We feel we are a department to emulate.

"When I weighed everything, what I kept coming back to was my strong belief that when we look back ten years from now people are going to be wowed with what we accomplished in the coming decade. I firmly believe with the coaches and staffs we have in place in every sport, the support we have from the administration, the quality of student-athletes we have and are attracting, and the tremendous support we get from our fans and our boosters, I just can't see us having anything but great success. I really believe, in my heart, in the next few years we will be playing in BCS Bowls, Final Fours and the College World Series. It was too hard to pass on the opportunity to be a part of what I believe is about to happen in Ole Miss athletics."

It's "old" news that Hartwell was promoted several weeks ago from Chief Financial Officer to Senior Executive Associate Athletics Director of the UMAA and COO of the UMAA Foundation.

In layman's terms, Hartwell is the number two man in the athletics department behind Boone.

But the release announcing John's promotion was somewhat vague as to his new job description.

"I will still oversee the finances of the athletic department, but we are in the process of hiring a business person to handle the day-to-day business operations I was doing," he began. "By freeing up that time, I will transition into the UMAA Foundation more and into day-to-day operations of football, men's basketball and baseball.

"We have divided the Foundation into two pieces - major gifts and priority seating/donor management/day-to-day management of that department. I will now be involved in cultivating and closing major gifts. I'm not the stereotypical CPA. I enjoy interacting with people, speaking at Ole Miss functions and things like that, and I look forward to getting more into the development area. I feel we can capitalize on the current excitement in Ole Miss athletics because we have a lot of boosters and graduates who have been quite successful in their careers, despite the tough economic times we are going through right now."

The other major component of his new job is the day-to-day operations of the three major sports.

"Since football, basketball and baseball generate and spend a lot of money, I have been involved in all three sports extensively during my time here, but now I will be more involved in the day-to-day oversight and operations of those three sports," he continued. "I have good working relationships with Houston (Nutt), Andy (Kennedy) and Mike (Bianco) and I look forward to expanding those relationships even more."

All of that sounds promising, but Hartwell understands there is work to be done in all areas.

The subject was broached about one of the biggest criticisms of a large segment of Rebel fans - the lack of inclusion, pursuit of and interaction with the smaller donor to the UMAA Foundation.

"There is no question we need to do a better job in that area. We need to place the same emphasis and value on the person who gives $100 as we do the handful who give a million dollars," John stated. "We will amp up those efforts and we have some ideas on how to accomplish that.

"Giving is relative. A hundred dollar donor, in terms of discretionary income, may be sacrificing as much as the million dollar donor, and they need to be not only included, but shown they are appreciated on an equal basis. That is something Pete and I are in total agreement about. The smaller donor cannot be neglected or under-appreciated. We are brainstorming an idea of having one big meeting a year, somewhere around the Grove Bowl possibly, that will include every donor to the UMAA Foundation. It will be a state of the union meeting that will be open for fans to ask questions and interact on equal footing with the bigger donors. We are also going to look at other communication methods to involve more people and allow them to voice their thoughts and opinions more easily and more readily. Growing the numbers of and including the smaller donors is an area we will improve on and address strongly."

There has also been the constant perception that the relationships between Boone and Nutt and Kennedy have been strained in the past due, mostly, to day-to-day issues and differences. Enter Hartwell.

"Pete has too much on his plate to be handling day-to-day operations of our three major sports. He has handed that task over to me because he trusts me and knows that at the end of the day I am going to do what is right for Ole Miss athletics and I am going to give our coaches and student-athletes every opportunity to be successful," Hartwell noted. "I look forward to working with our coaches, building my relationships with them and assisting them in any way I can in their quest to win championships. I will have a good relationship with them and I do have a good give-and-take relationship with Pete. Contrary to what some may believe, Pete does not want me to be a yes man to him. He wants honest input and discussion. He does not want to have to be involved in the day-to-day issues that come up in every sport. He wants the coaches and I to come up with solutions and get things done. That will be my job and I intend to do it in the best interest of our department and in the best interest of helping our coaches win.

"It is a very big challenge, but it's one I look forward to. Pete needs to be, and wants to be, concentrating his efforts on the big picture. For instance, we are working on a strategic plan for the future involving fundraising and facilities that needs to work hand-in-hand with the university's goals. His efforts need to be in those global areas of athletics and not on the little things in individual sports that the coaches and I can solve on a day-to-day basis."

Ole Miss is in the middle of an evolution with a new chancellor, a fresh approach to athletics issues, and a promising future campus-wide and in athletics.

John Hartwell is excited about being a key component in the saga.

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