By Adam Brown
Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter announced the hiring of Tom Kleinlein as deputy athletics director on Friday. Kleinlein will oversee the external affairs and day-to-day football activities for the department.
Kleinlein comes to Ole Miss after serving as Director of Athletics for Georgia Southern for the past seven years. In college, he played football at Wake Forest and joined the Eagles program after a two-year stint at Kent State, where he served as the deputy athletics director and five years at Arizona State where he served as the associate athletics director for football.
“We are excited to add an administrator with Tom’s credentials to our team,” Carter said. “Having sat in the athletics director seat, Tom brings a valuable perspective and the experience to manage all areas related to our external operation and football program. To attract staff of his caliber speaks to the power of the Ole Miss brand and our desire to provide our department with the best leadership in the industry.”
“I’m excited to join the team at Ole Miss and be part of the vision of Keith Carter, Lane Kiffin and the leadership of the university,” Kleinlein said. “My family is looking forward to being active members of the Oxford community.
“I’m thankful for my time and for the people at Georgia Southern. It’s a special place and provided so many great memories.”
Georgia Southern enjoyed success during Kleinlein’s tenure, capturing 12 conference championships and two football bowl game titles:
• The football program won the Sun Belt title in 2014, its first year as an FBS program. The team capped off a stellar 2015 season – its first as a bowl-eligible program – by claiming the first bowl win in program history with a win over Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl and reached 10 wins in 2018 by capturing the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
• The baseball team won the 2013 Southern Conference crown, moving on to beat fifth-ranked Florida State in the NCAA Regional in Tallahassee.
• Men’s golf captured the Sun Belt Championship in 2015 and advanced to the NCAA Championship after being selected for NCAA Regionals for the 25th time in program history in 2019.
• The rifle team – one of two women’s sports created under Kleinlein’s watch along with women’s golf – won the 2017 and 2019 Southern Conference Air Rifle Championships.
During each of the past four academic years, Georgia Southern student-athletes posted the highest combined grade point averages in department history, highlighted a 3.058 department-wide GPA in 2017-18. In the latest Academic Progress Rate report, seven of the department’s programs recorded a perfect single-year APR score, while the GS men’s golf, women’s basketball and women’s cross country programs recorded APRs that ranked first or tied for first in the Sun Belt in their respective sports.
Kleinlein’s vision and planning were critical as Georgia Southern accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference in March 2013, moving the FCS powerhouse to the next level of competition in football and securing a new league for the Eagles’ athletics teams.
With the move to the Sun Belt, Kleinlein worked to increase the department’s annual operating budget from $13 million to nearly double that on an annual basis:
• Over his tenure, Kleinlein negotiated a few of the largest contracts in school history, including deals with Coca-Cola and Adidas. The deal with Coke, valued at $13 million, included scholarships and contributions to both the academic and athletic foundations and is the largest corporate sponsorship in the university’s history.
• In 2013, the Eagles signed the department’s first all-sports apparel contract with Adidas, which provides approximately $800,000 in the product.
• Kleinlein negotiated and signed a 15-year multimedia rights deal with Learfield Sports for the first time in school history, which is valued at $11.825 million.
• He oversaw renovation projects totaling north of $36 million during his time.
• The GS Athletic foundation experienced significant growth, including three consecutive record-breaking years.