By MacRae Knight
The University of Mississippi is known for its unique sense of family and the cherished traditions that have been carried on by many generations of Rebels.
Born into a family with deep Ole Miss roots, Paris Buchanan grew up spending game day weekends in Oxford, tailgating in his family’s notorious tent in The Grove and watching the Rebels play football.
“I was one of those kids that just lived and breathed it,” Buchanan recalled. “We’d lose a football game and it would take me six days to get over it.”
The countless childhood memories he had at Ole Miss made his college decision easy one. Buchanan attended Ole Miss as an undergraduate majoring in finance.
Buchanan was settling in for his sophomore year at Ole Miss when a friend came to him with an opportunity to intern in the athletics department.
“Long story short, he told me his dad’s friend worked at Ole Miss and that he said we could be interns and shoot the T-shirt guns into the stands after touchdowns,” Buchanan said. “Basically, we could make a little bit of money and be on the field during football games. I was like, ‘sign me up!’”
After his first football season as an intern, Buchanan was hooked. He ended up sticking with the internship through the next few years. Little did he know, working as an intern launching T-shirts into the stands during football games was just the beginning. “I had no idea that would lead to a career,” Buchanan said.
When Buchanan declared his major as a freshman, he imagined his future involving moving to a big city and a job in finance. It was not until the end of his junior year that he really realized just how much his interests had evolved over the past couple of years.
“I was almost done with my degree, and I knew I needed to finish what I started,” Buchanan said. “But I also knew that what I was really interested in was sports marketing.”
Buchanan graduated from Ole Miss in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a new plan: grad school. He would spend the next two years in Oxford pursuing a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications and working a part-time position as a graduate assistant.
After completing his master’s degree in 2013, Buchanan jumped right into a full-time position with Ole Miss Athletics working with Ole Miss Soccer, Rifle, and Women’s Basketball. Over the years he worked his way up within the department, learning the in-and-outs of Ole Miss Athletics.
Today, as Associate Director of Marketing and Fan Experience, Buchanan’s main duties involve overseeing football and men’s basketball.
“What I mean by overseeing football and basketball is that I’m overseeing fan experience inside the stadium,” Buchanan said. “If you go to a basketball game and get a T-shirt, or a bobblehead, or a pompom, that’s coming from our office.”
From the pompoms to the band, the music, the videos played on the big screen, and all the fun fan games in between, “Our job is to make other peoples’ experience as a fan be better,” Buchanan said.
As he gears up for the fall and what will (hopefully) mark his tenth football season with Ole Miss Athletics, Buchanan and the Ole Miss Athletics department are facing an unprecedented set of challenges. The current coronavirus pandemic has heightened uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, and of course, sports. In March the world watched the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS seasons come to an abrupt halt. It was just a matter of time before the NCAA followed, canceling all winter and spring sports seasons and tournaments.
From canceled seasons to virtual recruiting, Ole Miss Athletics has experienced first-hand the impacts of COVID-19.
As sports fans self-isolate in their homes with no sports to watch, there has been a great deal of talk about the fate of the upcoming college football season. Numerous scenarios have been floating around, from moving the start of the season to July—which has since been debunked—to a 2021 schedule that begins in winter and ends in the spring.
For now, however, Ole Miss Athletics is moving forward as they would with any other upcoming season. The only difference is that work is being done from home and meetings are taking place over Zoom and FaceTime.
“Things could change whether it’s next week, next month, or two or three months from now,” Buchanan said. “But until that happens, we will continue to go full steam ahead like we’ll be playing football come September in Oxford.”
Despite everything that has changed over the past two months, one thing that remains fully intact is the pure passion and excitement Paris Buchanan has for his alma mater and what the future has in store for Ole Miss Athletics.
“I get to wake up every day and help promote Ole Miss. Yeah, we have our issues, but every school has that. Just realizing that every day might not be a great one, but at the end of the day I get to work for my alma mater and the school that I love,” he said, “and that’s something that I think about all the time.”