Strange rumblings this week out of Andy Kennedy’s hoops shop as three-star signee Parker Stewart reportedly asked for a release from his national letter of intent, but apparently hasn’t fully communicated that to AK and Ole Miss. According to Antonio Morales and Ben Garrett, Stewart has expressed desire to opt out of his commitment, but it’s unclear whether the university knows that yet.
In any case, should Stewart in fact bolt — and he most likely will, it seems — he’d become the third domino in a string of sour grapes for AK’s outfit, beginning with the head man himself. Kennedy, recall, was not extended on his contract this year, as Ross Bjork opted to take a wait-and-see approach on AK’s performance this coming season.
Just a week after that news, longtime Kennedy assistant Bill Armstrong jumped ship for LSU, a lateral move to work under a first-year head coach next season. Ben Garrett maintains that Armstrong was seeking out better job security in the wake of AK’s non-extension, a reasonable if rather mercenary thing to believe.
Armstrong’s departure, then, cut out one of the lead recruiters on Parker Stewart, who would have been vying for minutes with Memphis transfer Markel Crawford. Taken in tandem — loss of one’s most intimate contact on campus and an immediate position battle — one can certainly understand Stewart’s reasons for leaving, if not altogether be happy about it.
Ole Miss deputy athletic director Stephen Ponder unexpectedly resigns
Bjork’s assistant athletics director Stephen Ponder unexpectedly resigned Thursday after five years on the job. He was hired in June 2012 as the Senior Executive Associate A.D. for External Relations, then upped to Deputy Athletics Director last October. An alumnus of N.C. State, Ponder came to Oxford after five years as Senior AD at Arizona State.
There’s little information to be had beyond the fact of his resignation, but at least according to the Ole Miss Spirit’s Ben Garrett, “Ponder’s resignation today had absolutely nothing to do with the NCAA issues Ole Miss is dealing with. Zero.” Glad that’s cleared up.
Whatever the reasons for Ponder’s exit, such shuffling at the upper reaches of Ole Miss athletics will never not be attended by the usual grubbing about at NCAA RUMORS and SCANDAL and so forth. It’s in fact difficult to say when — if at all — such knee-jerk reactions will ever subside after this or that person leaves Oxford, so for the time being, go ahead and speculate all you want.
Ole Miss softball gears up for NCAA tournament this week
Despite the NAACP’s objections, Ole Miss softball will host their opening round regional tilt this weekend, their first such privilege in program history. This comes after the team’s first ever SEC tournament win, and emotions are riding high all around Oxford surrounding these incredible players.
Now, to the point about moving the Oxford regional out of Oxford, the NAACP does have a point there. The NCAA should be consistent in its anti-discrimination efforts, and though the university removed the state flag from all athletics areas in 2014 and from campus proper in 2015, it still flies above the statehouse and in downtown Oxford. We’ve previously written about the apposite issue of the state’s so-called “religious liberty” bill, which doesn’t protect religious liberty at all.
Nevertheless, the NCAA is going forward with the Oxford regional staying put, a boon for the Rebel women, and we’ll have to wait and see how the NCAA applies its anti-discrimination policy in the future.
Ole Miss men’s golf is also gearing up for the NCAA tournament
For the first time in 16 years, Rebel men’s golf returns to the NCAA tournament. Here’s a picture of the boys now:
The men’s tournament takes place the week after the women’s tournament from May 26-31 in Sugar Grove, Ill. The field is whittled down to eight teams by the tournament’s penultimate day, after which two teams will face off for the championship hardware.