In a rather surprising announcement, Ole Miss' head track coach, Brian O'Neal, announced his resignation Monday after just three years on the job. If you're wondering what a "Brian O'Neal" and "track coach" are, the Rebel runners gained little -- if any -- success on the indoor and outdoor ovals through the early aughts, and not until O'Neal's return in 2012 did they make any sort of ripple on the SEC stage, let alone in the NCAA at large.
Though known mainly as a middle-sprinting and jumps guru, O'Neal devoted historic energies to developing the Rebs' distance program, which, like most of the SEC, never rivaled Arkansas' fabled prowess, but all the same won its Southeastern Regional meet last fall and in so doing earned its first ever automatic bid to the NCAA Cross Country Championships. O'Neal also coached a record-setting 10 men and seven women to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships earlier this month, after (another) record-setting nine Rebels earned All-America honors on the rubber.
Given O'Neal's youth and experience at top-tier programs -- he coached sprints and jumps at Florida from 2009 to 2012 after assisting at Ole Miss from 1992 to 2005 -- his resignation comes as a body blow to a program that only recently began to taste conference and national success. Details are currently scarce, and O'Neal's statement is circuitously vague:
I am announcing today my resignation from Ole Miss as its head track coach ... I do so with a heavy heart, but I believe this action to be in the best interests of the university and my own interests. I am most appreciative to Ole Miss for my education, its role in shaping my opportunities, and for the opportunity to return to our track as its head coach and not simply as an athlete.
O'Neal is a Pontotoc native and graduated from Ole Miss in 1993. If you or someone you know can train a cadre of wiry, sub-four milers, please contact Ross Bjork immediately.