Last night, I attended the yearly UMAA preseason rah-rah festival. The Alumni Association had, among others, Dan Jones, Pete Boone, Michael Thompson, Cliff Godwin, Renee Ladner, and Houston Nutt as speakers. I've generally felt like those things were a waste of time, but I actually enjoyed the evening, and the turnout was incredible. It was standing room only at the Jackson Convention Center. I've got a few notes on things that interested me.
Head of UMAA (whose name I don't remember)
A message among the early speakers was a quote from Mike Bianco which was "Ole Miss has to get its swagger back." It was quite funny to hear this group of people talk about swagger all night, but I do like the intention. Still, it was hilarious when this speaker gave a list of reasons for Ole Miss to have "swag."
- Oxford was recently named by (random magazine) as the #1 college town in America.
- Ole Miss recently was evaluated as the best liberal arts university visited by an independent group evaluating colleges.
- Oxford is the safest town among SEC schools. Seriously. Solja boy tell 'em.
If that doesn't give Ole Miss a bit of swagger then, c'mon, nothing will, right?
In an effort to add to what the previous speaker had said, Jones decided to read a few words from the mission statement of the 2020 plan the university is currently devising. This is roughly what he said. "EXCELLENCE. (pause) BEST. (pause) FLAGSHIP. Those are just some of the words in the mission statement." Impressive. We've gotten to the point where we can use superlatives in mission statements. Six gold stars.
One statistic Jones shared that peaked my interest is that applications to Ole Miss are up 60% since this time two years ago. Obviously the economy is a contributing factor, but a 60% increase is still astonishing. No wonder we're having to "force" some freshmen to live off campus this year. This can only be a good thing for the university. Surely the IHL will allow us to be more selective about who we accept if this trend continues.
Jones left everyone with the message that it's okay not to like him, Pete Boone, the mascot, Houston Nutt, or whoever just as long as you love Ole Miss. I think it was good to hear that from university leadership.
Try as I might to get upset with the athletic department, I always like listening to Boone speak. He's a generally funny guy and straight-forward. He knows that people hate him, and he really doesn't care. He made several jokes about the number of hateful e-mail he receives daily. Other than that, there really wasn't anything interesting from him. Boone shared a few stories of his time as a football player and sat down.
Godwin is a terrible, terrible public speaker. After acknowledging that everyone was there to hear Houston Nutt, he told his entire story beginning with when he was in the ninth grade. He talked about each coach he met and each move he made... dryly. After five minutes of telling us how he had gotten each job along the way, he did finally come around to talking (for five seconds) about the team. He said we will be tough outs and will hit the ball hard. Coachspeak much? Omaha, etc.
Ladner is always the best speaker at this event, and she didn't disappoint this year. She spent the first half of her speech making the audience laugh, destroying the podium with her high heel, and forcing people to clap (as a teaching mechanism). Then she talked about her team. Apparently the Rebels roster looks something like this. One Senior. Two Juniors. Five Sophomores. Five freshmen. Talk about youth. After listing the ages of the players, Ladner said, "in a few years, someone's going to get to coach a great team. Pete, we're friends. Can it be me?" Ladner ended her speech by telling those in attendance to come up to "Cosmopolitan Mayberry" (which we at the cup think is a brilliant Oxford nickname) and see the Lady Rebs play.
The first half of his speech was the same old same old. Then he broke the mold of the Houston Nutt speech and talked about how bad play and bad coaching led to last year. He took some of the blame, passed a lot to defensive coaches (justifiably), and talked about why he thought we'd be better. Nutt talked a good bit about how much of a difference he though our new CB coach Kevin Burns would make on defense and talked about the success Brewer has had with receivers in the past. He didn't reveal anything of interest, but there came a point where it was difficult to predict what he would say. That's never happened in a Houston Nutt interview before as far as I know. his final note was that we needed to pray for heat on September 3rd but he hoped the heat wouldn't keep us away. I personally believe that if any of you are only going to make one game this year and are trying to choose which one to make, BYU (the first) is one you should consider. Sure, you won't get to see SEC football, but it's important for our team to have a lot of people there to yell and perhaps help us come away with a win.
Points Houston made of any worth:
- Barry Brunetti would start today. Mackey has a chance too. He paid lip service to Zack Stoudt (calling him a more athletic Jevan Snead.... ha) but then left him out of the conversation later.
- Enrique Davis will continue to inexplicably steal carries from Jeff Scott and Brandon Bolden.
- The freshman receivers will play this year. Nutt only mentioned Brassell as a receiver and didn't even hint he could do anything else.
- Nutt once again mentioned Brewer's "speedball" package which, as far as we know, is just the elusive no-huddle.
- Our offense will continue to be predicated on the running game and play action.
- Nutt mentioned Matt Hall as a right guard and no one else. I guess that's settled.
- Ja-Mes Logan was never mentioned, nor were Vincent Sanders or Korvic Neat, and Melvin Harris was only mentioned as being incapable of catching the ball downfield.
- Senquez Golson and Chief Brown will not redshirt. If nothing else, they will play on special teams as true freshmen.
- Brassell isn't the only freshman candidate to run the wild rebel, but he's the first candidate Nutt mentioned.