Give credit to the Ole Miss athletic department: all this talk of diversity and progressive thinking is more than lip service. Five days after Hugh Freeze publicly called for a change to the Mississippi state flag, the university announced the hiring of Connie Price-Smith to lead the track & field and cross country program, making her the first female head coach of a men's or combined gender sport in Ole Miss history.
Not that Price-Smith's hiring is some publicity stunt -- her resume is STACKED. She spent the last decade heading up both the men and women's programs at Southern Illinois, where she was a six-time Mountain Valley Conference Coach of the Year. She's a four-time Olympian and, as of last week, has been named the women's head coach for Team USA in the 2016 summer games in Brazil (how's that for a 'crootin pitch?).
So as neat as the historical significance of all of this is, this is big news first and foremost because it's a home run hire for a program that just inexplicably lost a promising young coach. Brian O'Neil, who sent a record-setting 17 Ole Miss men and women to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last year, abruptly resigned in June, leaving behind nothing but the classically vague "it's in the best interests of myself and the university" line.
So can we talk about the hires that Ross Bjork has made since coming on as AD? First he reeled in a hotshot up-and-coming golf coach in Chris Malloy (who, in a span of just four years, led USF to its second and third NCAA regional berths in school history), then what was at the time a big-name women's hoops coach in Adrian Wiggins (who was subsequently sent packing after recruiting violations) and now Price-Smith.
That kinda success really makes you wonder what Bjork could do with a coaching search for one of the big three sports.
(/ducks as Mike Bianco enthusiasts begin throwing things)