With three different groups having produced a letter outlining concerns to the chancellor, an organization with its own website, Forward Rebels, and an email critical of Boone’s performance now widely circulated, he talks here about his relationship with contributors to the athletic department.
He also points out that football season ticket sales are ahead of last year’s pace, and the UMAA Foundation is seeing an increase in both membership and contributions.
(Do you sense a movement of discontent among your major contributors?)
“I think it’s frustration of this past year. I don’t think there’s any question about it. A lot of it has to do with losing to a rival team. Those scabs don’t heal very easily. At the same time, when we have record donations, more people are members of our foundation now than ever before, the facts say that Ole Miss is ready to move forward. The facts say that fans are supporting Ole Miss programs, not the emotion of time.
“I’m going to join Forward Rebels. I think it’s great. It’s about unifying the base, about unifying everybody. That’s what I’ve been trying the preach the last several weeks to our donors. “Listen, we can’t get caught. There are too few of us against too many, and we have to be together.” I feel very good about the response we’ve gotten from those folks, looking for ways to get together and to succeed.
“The issues with regard to those letters and things like that, I understand their frustration. The method is probably not one I would choose, but fans are fans. When you lose, the hot dogs don’t taste as good, and the bathrooms are not as clean. When you win, nobody notices anything. If we get ourselves back to where we need to be and what we need to be doing, I think a lot of those frustrations will go by the wayside.”
(How would you chracterize your relationship with boosters? Do you think it’s strong?)
“I do, but I don’t want to get into a situation where I’m saying things about myself. I don’t take it personally. There are some individuals that might … I’m sure there are some individuals that don’t particularly like me or don’t like the job I’ve done, but that comes with time. I’ve been doing this for over 13-14 years. If you’re in a position of having to make tough decisions, hiring coaches and firing coaches, budgets, saying yes and no, an athletic director … there’s bound to be some build-up of folks that just don’t like him or her. That’s with the territory. The thing I keep in my mind is I’m all about Ole Miss, and I’m trying to make decisions that are in the best interest of Ole Miss, not Pete Boone, not a coach, a fan or a booster.
“A lot of it has to do with compliance. I’m so focused on compliance. Y’all have been reading about all the issues out there. That’s not going to happen at Ole Miss. Maybe other than Vanderbilt, Ole Miss may be the only school since our 1994 (NCAA investigation) which brought me into this world, without a major investigation from the NCAA. We’re going to have institutional control.
“But when you do that you’re telling a coach he can’t do this or that. You’re putting monitors in place, and they say, ‘You don’t trust me.’ That’s just the nature. To me, the integrity of Ole Miss is at stake. I’m going to do everything I can do, and my boss expects me to do that. Those kinds of things build up over time.”