Pontotoc native Brian O’Neal was introduced as the Ole Miss track coach Tuesday, just the third in the program’s modern-day history.
He talked about competing for and winning championships, which is what coaches and administrators talk about when coaches are introduced.
Before you can compete and win you have to believe you can. Certainly you don’t want coaches who don’t believe, but the talk is met with a certain skepticism when a program has been so far from championship level – at least from the team perspective.
There have been great individual performances for Ole Miss track and field, All-Americans, international competitors, Olympians.
The school, however, for many years did not place much value on the program as a whole.
Many years the Rebels did not even attend the SEC meet. For many years they didn’t even have a track on campus.
The men have never won the championship but did finish second with 105 points in 1984.
Most years the men have finished in the bottom third of the standings.
The women have never won the championship, and their seventh-place finish with 38.5 points in May was their second-highest ever. They scored 73 points to finish sixth in 2008.
O’Neal did not shy away from championship talk in an informal gathering with media. In fact, he started it.
“We want to bring in young men and women who are going to help us compete for championships.”
“We are definitely going to compete at a high level, and I’m excited to bring championships here to Ole Miss.”
Three times …
“There were some limitations in things I needed to do in terms of growing and developing as a coach, learning what it looks like for a championship team, and I went out and found that. My four years away from Ole Miss we won four national championships at Florida, and we won multiple SEC championships. That’s the attitude and intensity I will bring here to Oxford.”
O’Neal described his relationship with long-time Ole Miss coach Joe Walker – for whom O’Neal ran for four years and coached for 14 – as one that has evolved from a father-son relationship to a big brother-little brother relationship.
“The challenge is to one up my big brother, coach Walker, and produce a better team on the field.”