A standing-room only crowd estimated at 400 filled the BancorpSouth Conference Center to listen to short talks with a powerful message from three of the university’s most high-profiled employees, its chancellor, athletics director and football coach.
It was the ninth stop for the Road Trip, a good-will blitz of three events a day over five days to culminate with an appearance at the Double Decker festival in Oxford this weekend.
Previous stops Wednesday were in West Point and Birmingham.
“We are the flagship university of the state of Mississippi. We need to know it, act like it and lead in everything we do,” Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones said.
Athletics director Ross Bjork and football coach Hugh Freeze are tasked with the biggest part of making that happen, both having worked at the school for less than half a year.
The program included a video presentation baseball coach Mike Bianco, men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy and current students encouraging alumni to be actively involved in the school.
Jones, Bjork and Freeze expressed strong confidence in one another and in where Ole Miss athletics is headed in the future.
Jones said everyone has a role to play, starting with himself as chancellor, and that being to provide resources to Bjork and Freeze then step back and watch them perform.
Calling all Rebels
But all three men called on their Northeast Mississippi supporters to continue to play key roles and increase those roles as well.
“You have a responsibility to support these guys, to love Ole Miss and move Ole Miss forward. It’s time for us to do that,” Jones said. “They are terrific. They are the right fit for us and will take us to the right place.”
Jones said fans must make financial commitments.
Bjork told the crowd the quickest way to do that was for fans to buy all of the available football season tickets.
“We’re asking you to give whatever you can, whether that’s buying a T-shirt or $40 million dollars. If you can give $40 million, we need to see you afterward.”
The contributions of fans are a must if the university is to compete for championships, Jones said.
The three men spoke of the journey, of their commitment to the process and their confidence in success.
But Freeze didn’t sugar coat the present as his team is faced with a rebuilding effort in his first season as coach.
“We are in the wilderness in our football program. That’s where we are. We can choose to stay there, or we can choose to love one another and row the boat all in the same direction,” he said.
The Rebel Road Trip ’12, a tour of Ole Miss coaches and athletic officials which began downstate on Monday, will be in Corinth on Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dinner Bell. Cost is $10.