HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett announced in an email to alumni that Jeff Mitchell has been appointed as the interim director of athletics.
The appointment of Mitchell is effective immediately. Mitchell had previously served as the deputy director of athletics.
Former USM Athletic Director Jon Gilbert resigned on Sunday to take the same position at East Carolina University.
“Jeff is an experienced athletics administrator who, prior to coming to Southern Miss, served as a member of the senior management team at Santa Clara University,” Bennett said in the email. “He earned his bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration from Millsaps College and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law.”
Bennett said that Mitchell is qualified to serve in interim capacity and he is committed to helping Southern Miss resolve challenges faced in athletics.
Brian Morrison will takeover as the interim Deputy Director of Athletics effective immediately.
Bennett admitted that he is concerned that USM is searching for a third new athletic director in recent years. Gilbert had served as athletic director since January 2017.
“I am committed to a thorough selection process that will result in a Director of Athletics who will bring stability to the department, as well as consistent and sustained success for many years,” Bennett said.
The selection process for the new athletic director will not be quick, according to Bennett.
“The complexity of our challenges will necessitate a different approach to the hiring process, one that requires patience, the engagement of our stakeholders, and a thorough review of our department,” Bennett said in the email. “The process must include an intentional review to evaluate how we got here – how we got to this place of searching for our third Director of Athletics in recent years, how we got to this place of not being selected for postseason bowl competition, how we got to this place of unrest with our placement within the NCAA, how we got to this place of continued uncertainty with our financial sustainability within the department – and to determine what can be done to address these systemic challenges.”
Bennett said he will be visiting several cities in the spring to hear from Southern Miss stakeholders regarding the athletics program. The cities will include Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Jackson, Houston, Nashville, Birmingham, Mobile and other locations if needed.
The dates, times and locations will be announced during the first part of the new year, according to Bennett.
“I look forward to our conversations and the contributions of your ideas,” Bennett said. “What we learn from this self-evaluation will help determine the timeline for my hire of a permanent Director of Athletics.”