By Trevor Terminie/Journalism student
Perfect is not the word to describe how Keith Carter’s tenure as Athletic Director at Ole Miss, because he deserves more credit than that.
Carter, an Ole Miss alumnus, was hired in November of 2019 to be the new AD at his alma mater after serving as interim following the departure of Ross Bjork to Texas A&M.
Today, the culture surrounding Ole Miss sports has completely reversed course.
Before Carter’s hire, sports in Oxford were falling behind. There was decreasing fan interest, especially in football. Moreover, everything just seemed to be following the same trendline with no real standout moves or actions by the Athletic Department.
In comes Keith Carter, and in the literal flip-of-a-switch, things changed.
Just 10 days into his tenure as AD, Carter hired Lane Kiffin to be the head football coach. This has been the focal point in his tenure. Again, only 10 days. I can only imagine what something this big so early in a job could do to somebody. (Carter noted that he lost 11 pounds during the hiring process, which lasted about four days.)
What made this hire even more special was Carter’s reasoning for the hire.
“We needed somebody right away that would galvanize the fanbase and make us relevant right away,” Carter said.
Carter always has the interest of the two things that run college sports in mind: the student-athletes and the fans, and he will do anything possible to make a positive impact on both. The Ole Miss sports community needs to cherish that.
Football is not the only thing where Carter has made an impact. The presence that he has within all sports is outstanding. If there is an Ole Miss sporting event, you will see Keith Carter there.
Carter attended the Women’s NIT Championship in Memphis to see the women’s basketball team. He is there when the soccer team has games. He is also there for the rifle team, whose matches many people would never think to attend.
Carter cares about his sports teams like he does his family. He literally brings his family to the events he attends to spend time with them and his Ole Miss family at the same time.
You do not see many people who care for his athletes as much as Carter does. Some of that comes from the fact that Carter himself played sports at Ole Miss – a standout basketball player on championship teams.
Even with these bright aspects of his tenure, Carter’s plan for the future of Ole Miss athletics is even more special.
Carter has already begun to build the Track & Field team new locker rooms. Other plans include a $25 million renovation to the Manning Center, softball complex renovation, soccer complex renovation, a continuation of a golf project, potential housing facilities for student-athletes, and, finally, a complete renovation of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
If this alone does not tell you how much Carter cares about his student-athletes, I do not know what else will.
Sometimes, we get lost in the success that happens around us. There is no doubt that all Ole Miss sports are building up present and long-term success. However, we cannot forget who got them there.
Keith Carter has been the most important piece to Ole Miss’ success in the past year-and-a-half, and he has a long, successful future left in Oxford. We as an Ole Miss community need to recognize this, support the process, and enjoy it all as he leads.