A few highlights from the Tupelo stop on the Rebel Road Trip …
– The video, as always, is cool. They asked that those in attendance not record it so I won’t share much about it except to say there was more applause for Jaylen Walton’s 91-yard touchdown run against Mississippi State than for Senquez Golson’s game-clinching interception against Alabama.
– Ross Bjork received a standing ovation when he was introduced, not as a result of something he said during his speech. Speaks to his approval rating. Hugh Freeze and Matt Insell also spoke with Insell following Bjork and Freeze batting cleanup.
– The gist of the message was to continue to remain positive and work hard as the transition at chancellor nears.
– Lots of talk about the new arena, the Pavilion at Ole Miss, the additional leg room at each set, wider concourses and additional available concessions. Fan were encouraged to buy season tickets. Bjork said Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy “does not get enough credit for what he’s done with our basketball program, and the numbers back it up.”
– Bjork said by 2017 Ole Miss will have spent $175 million on athletic facilities beginning with the renovation of the football building.
– Bjork said Dan Jones has encouraged the university to move ahead from the drama of his contract negotiations with the college board. “We can be a great university in transition and attract at great leader to our university.”
– Bjork said part of the athletics vision includes giving back. He pointed out the school’s relief help to tornado-stricken communities in Mississippi, including Tupelo, and to the football program’s spring break mission trip to Haiti.
– Speaking of Haiti, Freeze told a great story about Jeremy Liggins on the trip. He said Liggins’ size at first scared villagers but by the end of the week they wall wanted their picture taken with him.
– Insell said early in the 2013-2014 season, his first as women’s coach, the team had lost four straight and was competing in a holiday tournament in Hawaii. “I got a call from coach Freeze when we were in Hawaii, and he said, ‘Enjoy the process. Have fun with it.’” Insell shared that news with his staff then. “A staff member looked at me and said, ‘Has coach Freeze ever lost four in a row?”
– Insell said he’s taken recruits to see the construction site of the new arena more than he took them to Tad Smith for two years.
– Freeze pointed out the highlights of the football season and told fans it could become the “new normal.” He also told them to brace for disappointments along the way. “We don’t play in a cupcake league. No one is going backwards. Everyone is getting better. We’ll have some disappointments.
– Bjork said work on a new track at Ole Miss is expected to start late this summer and take 18-20 months to complete.