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Carter Navigates Ole Miss Athletics through a Turbulent Time

By Anna Rice Gables
IMC Student

(Editors note: This story was written for the IMC sportswriting class in early April.) 

Back in the 1980s and early ‘90s, in the small central Arkansas town of Perryville, a young boy named Keith Carter dreamed of one day “Calling the Hogs” as an athlete for the University of Arkansas. 

Keith Carter named AD at Ole Miss. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

“I grew up always wanting to be a Razorback, but I never got recruited by them,” said Carter, speaking of his desire to play basketball at Arkansas’ flagship university. 

While his dream didn’t play out exactly the way he had hoped, Carter ended up coming to The University of Mississippi and started for the Ole Miss basketball team all four years of his college career. He helped the Rebels win Southeastern Conference Western Division titles in 1997 and 1998 and earned an All-America honor after his senior season in 1999. He was also a part of three straight NCAA Tournaments, and the Rebels got their first NCAA Tournament win in program history with a victory against Villanova in Milwaukee in 1999.

Carter also earned All-SEC honors in 1998 and 1999. He then went to play professional basketball in Italy from 2001 to 2008. 

Carter came back to the University in 2009 to join the Athletics Department, serving as the Executive Director for the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation beginning in June 2012. He received many praises in this position.

In February 2018, he was promoted to Ole Miss Deputy Athletic Director. Following the departure of his former boss, Ross Bjork, to Texas A&M, Carter was named Interim Athletic Director for Ole Miss in 2019. 

On November 22, 2019, Carter received the nod to become The Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics by the University of Mississippi Chancellor, Glenn Boyce. 

Little did Carter know how Ole Miss sports life would come to an abrupt halt a few months later as Covid-19 entered into the United States, changing life and sports as we know them. In the wake of all the uncertainty, Carter has worked tirelessly to help the Ole Miss sports community and student-athletes adjust to, for now, a new way of life without sports. Athletes have been forced to leave campus, seniors’ careers have come to an end, and the uncertainty of the upcoming football season looms. He mentioned this week he hopes football players can return to campus on July 1.

Carter addressed many things about what will happen with the sports department during a press conference in early April.

“We look at this as taking care of the needs of our student-athletes and our staff. A lot of it will be done from home moving forward, with the focus moving towards the summer and the fall, and what it looks like to see if student-athletes can return for the summer term and the fall from a planning perspective,” Carter said.

On how spring football was canceled and how coaches will proceed, Carter said, “We have a pretty major event on our hands (Covid-19), and we want our (Nutrition and Strength & Conditioning) coaches to stay in contact with our athletes. There may be things they can do with Zoom from a meeting standpoint. We have to take a step back and take a look at this from a global level……and from a personal level, do everything we can to make this thing go away.”

Carter wants the best for all of the student-athletes. He wants them to stay healthy and in the best shape possible. 

“The athletes will be in contact with the trainers in their sports. It would then filter its way up to our medical staff and we will get them anything that they need. We are going to treat them as if they were on our campus. If they need to go to the doctor, they can work through us. We are going to do everything we possibly can from a mental health standpoint.”  

Life without sports is a new reality for everyone these days, but for athletic directors, it is no doubt a tough spot to be in. No sports season, tournament, or even a whole football season has ever been canceled because of a virus. Covid-19 has stopped the sports world in its entirety, and Keith Carter has done the best he can to navigate Ole Miss athletics through the crisis.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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