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Outgoing UM A.D. Boone Wants Unity

Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone has been the target of the largely anonymous fan group “Forward Rebels” for the past several months.  Newspaper ads have called for his ouster.  Threats have been made regarding giving and donations. 

Two weeks ago, Boone announced that he would be stepping down in 2012.  Today, UM’s AD spoke with Parrish Alford of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and he spoke of a need to unify the Rebel fanbase:

“… Anything I might say about that group might appear to be self-serving, but I will say this as an Ole Miss fans, and I can say it, because I’m not going to be the AD, it’s absolutely devastating to have the Ole Miss fan base divided.  We’re not big enough to have that sort of divisiveness.  We’re competing with schools that have 25, 30 and 40,000 students, 300,000 active alumni, $100 million budgets… and we’re going to split up?  It’s the silliest thing I’ve every heard of.”

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“Forward Rebels” Congratulates UM On Changes

The anti-Pete Boone fan group “Forward Rebels” has sent out a press release today congratulating Ole Miss for dismissing Houston Nutt and accepting the resignation of Boone.

“Recognizing a problem, the administration took decisive action by replacing the top two figures in Ole Miss sports… Forward Rebels supports these choices, and is thankful for these wise decisions…

Congratulations also on the decision to insist on the hiring of a national search firm to lend its expertise to our local search committee.  Thanks to Archie Manning and Mike Glenn for lending their names and reputations to this effort.  Their wisdom in choosing to seek the advice of nationwide experts is admirable, and, in this time of uncertainty and skepticism among Ole Miss fans, this objective addition is vital to protecting this search from the undue pressures of special interests from both within and without the Administration.  The fair and unfettered operations of this independent search is absolutely vital to any efforts to rebuild trust among Ole Miss fans.  Similarly, if our AD or coaching choice is made by an predetermined or inside dealings, the damage will be irreparable.  We must scour the entire nation for the best candidate, and we must not limit ourselves to “Ole Miss boys” alone.  A “rubber stamp” by the Committee of a pre-made decision to hire a good ol’ boy would be obvious to fans and devastating for Ole Miss.”

Yeesh.  Good ol’ boys?  What’s the fear, that Gunter Brewer will be promoted?  Or is that line aimed at Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze, a former Rebel assistant and the Michael Oher’s high school coach (as depicted in “The Blind Side”)?

And how about that bit regarding the “undue pressures of special interests.”  Anyone else find it ironic that a group (made up of mostly anonymous fans) best known for placing ads in papers and threatening financial repercussions against Ole Miss should Boone be kept… is now wanting to make sure no one else puts “undue pressures” on the administration?

That’s a little like forming a lobby group to lobby against the existence of other lobby groups.

The Forward Rebels release closes with the following stanzas (which we suggest you read with a fife and drum playing softly in the background… “Green Acres” style):

“Once (an AD is) selected, we also look forward to the final chapter of the good ol’ boy network at Ole Miss and are excited to see Dr. (Dan) Jones give carte blanche to this new leader. to do whatever it takes to rid Ole Miss of the culture of complacency, cronyism, and ‘good enough’ that has plagued us for decades.  It’s time.

Finally, upon hiring this duly and honestly chosen candidate, Forward Rebels will commit its full support to this leader and to his or her leadership of the athletic department.  We are certain that ours, and others’, coffers of support, both emotional and financial, will fling open to make Ole Miss great.”

Meanwhile, outside the Magnolia State, long-time Arkansas-based columnist Harry King breaks down why no coach in his right mind should want to go to Ole Miss.

Somewhere between King’s gut punch and Forward Rebels’ puffery… the truth lies.

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Another Group Now After Boone’s Scalp At UM

The group Forward Rebels now has some company.  A new movement is utilizing Twitter to bring about the dismissal of Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone.  The word they’re spreading via social media — make it a “Black Out Boone” day on Saturday.

All season, Ole Miss fans have been encouraged to wear red to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.  The Black Out Boone folks are asking like-minded individuals to show up in either black or Rebel navy.  They want them to cheer on the Rebels… while simultaneously showing a lack of support for school’s top athletic official. 

Boone wouldn’t comment on the movement when asked about it by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.  But Houston Nutt’s not in favor or it.

“Let’s don’t do that.  Let’s wear red like they’ve asked you to all year long.  I don’t want Arkansas coming up, being the only ones in red.  This is our stadium, let’s wear red.  Let’s get into the game.”

From what sources tell us, Nutt and Boone don’t have the very best of relationships at this point, but Nutt probably realizes the more pressure is put on Boone, the more likely he’ll whack some underling in order to appease the masses.  And Nutt could very well be that underling.

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“Forward Rebels” Calls For Immediate Termination Of UM’s Boone

Forget the newspaper ads, the group Forward Rebels on Monday put out a press release calling for Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones “to immediately terminate Athletic Director Pete Boone and to hire a professional, outside search firm to begin an open, objective, and nationwide search for our new leader of athletics.”

The release states that the problems at Mississippi run deeper than just two bad seasons of football.  “Under Boone’s watch, Ole Miss has seen a steady decline in sports and in public support, and it is time to make the right decision to steady the ship.”

“Forward Rebels is certain that Ole Miss will begin a new era, and we implore our leader to stand up for what’s best for Ole Miss.  Chancellor Jones, rise above socioeconomic status, race, and all other artificial barriers, and lead Ole Miss to a better day.  Ole Miss has had enough of the same group of Mississippi friends patting each other on the back as Ole Miss is run into the ground.  Ole Miss needs a leader who is not beholden to individuals, corporations, or groups who simply enjoy power.  Ole Miss needs a leader who is only beholden to demanding and driving excellence in all facets of Ole Miss Sports.

Ole Miss needs a leader who is of the people, not above the people, and we, along with all of our players, eagerly await the opportunity to succeed.”

The contact listed on the release is Lee Habeeb.  Habeeb is the 50-year-old co-creator of a number of successful right-wing radio shows including The Laura Ingraham Show.  Late last month, he took part in a Q&A feature regarding Forward Rebels with The Daily Mississippian Online.

In that piece, Habeeb said that he was  “approached and agreed to volunteer” to be the spokesperson for Forward Rebels.  “We had a gut feel that we’d be attacked for the ads by some who were determined to protect the status quo, but we also knew we’d get support from the Ole Miss fans as this story unfolded.” 

If you think Forward Rebels with its “we’re not political insiders” message sounds like an Ole Miss sports version of the Tea Party movement, you’re right.  In fact, the group “TEA Party Oxford” will be holding a meeting on Tuesday night and the keynote speaker is none other than… Lee Habeeb.

Clearly, the man helping to run the show for Forward Rebels knows how to play the media and he knows how to play political hardball.  So if anyone thinks this group of ad-placing Boone-bashers will fade quietly into the night, you might want to think again.  Habeeb will likely keep right on pushing.

Of course, the more he and Forward Rebels push, the more likely it is that Chancellor Jones will dig in his heels.  If the chancellor of the University of Mississippi caves to a group of people placing ads in newspapers it would set an awfully bad precedent.  Who might place ads — and for what reason — next?

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“Forward Rebels” Group Still After UM’s Boone

The anonymous fan group known as Forward Rebels has placed another anti-Pete Boone ad in Mississippi newspapers today.  The group continues to angle for the dismissal of Ole Miss’ longtime athletic director.

According to Parrish Alford of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the ad asks, “How much money is Pete Boone costing Ole Miss? … Find out soon.”

While UM is making a push to raise $150 million — and claims to have already raised $40 million — the people behind the Forward Rebels ad claim that “Pete Boone and Co. are happy to ride inflation, increased student enrollment and new ticket taxes as successful fund-raising,” adding, “We disagree.”

The ad then calls for people to share with Forward Rebels how much money they’re withholding from UM due to Boone.  Future ads will no doubt feature claims of people withholding thousands upon thousands of dollars.

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Boone Says He’s Not Stepping Down At Ole Miss

Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone — appearing on the Head-To-Head radio network across the state of Mississippi yesterday — addressed the criticism that he has been receiving and his job status:

“Absolutely our fans are frustrated as I am and certainly any of the Ole Miss family is frustrated.  And the Vanderbilt game, obviously, was a very low point because of just the game itself and how it was played.  But at the same time, we picked it back up last week a bit and there are a lot of emails that come in… It is a lot of passion.  And thank goodness the Ole Miss folks have passion.  But we’re gonna get it done…

No, I have no plans to step down… I will retire at some point and time.  I’ve got two and a half years left on this contract.”

Asked if he’s the best man for Ole Miss job, Boone said, “I think I am.  If I didn’t I would leave.”

Boone also said his door is open to everyone, including groups like Forward Rebels that have been placing ads in Mississippi newspapers calling for the AD’s job.

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Boone Still Under Fire At UM; Says There’s No Truth To Resignation Rumor

Will it be one, the other, or both? 

Pete Boone and Houston Nutt are both under fire in Oxford and at this point it’s questionable whether either man will remain in his current position past the fall. 

Rumors that Boone would step down grew so prevalent in the Magnolia State last night that Parrish Alford of The Northeast Mississippi Journal put in a call to the Ole Miss AD just to make sure his job status wasn’t changing.  When Boone called him back, he left this message:

“There’s absolutely no accuracy to the question you were asking me about (my) resignation.”

But the fan group “Forward Rebels” keeps turning up the heat.  Today they placed a new newspaper ad featuring the words “It’s time for a change, Ole Miss” just above a photo of Boone.

“Under Boone’s leadership, Ole Miss has routinely underperformed in the SEC,” the ad reads.  “Coaches have been fired.  A generation of athletes have come and gone.  But Pete Boone stays?  And continues to earn over $429,000 per year.  We at Forward Rebels believe THAT is unacceptable.  Ole Miss leadership must be held accountable.”

If you’re Boone and the natives are restless enough to place ads calling for your head, it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to hang on to Nutt for another year if the Rebels finish as poorly as they’ve started. 

How might UM’s AD buy himself more time?  Perhaps by hiring a Gus Malzahn or Mike Leach to excite Rebel fans.  Of course, what coach is going to walk into a situation where his boss is on the hot seat?

No matter how you slice it, Boone and Nutt are in for the fight of their lives over the next couple of months.

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UM’s Boone Dealing With Some Angry Rebel Fans

A lot of people in the Magnolia State are fired up these days… and not in a good way.  The Ole Miss basketball team just missed the NCAA Tournament again.  Houston Nutt’s football team took a major step backwards last year finishing just 4-8.  And the man at the top of the Rebel athletic department is feeling the heat.

In the past few days, an email critical of AD Pete Boone and the UM administration has been circulated among fans.  The school’s chancellor received a letter from a fan group detailing concerns within the program.  And a group that calls itself “The Forward Rebels” has launched its own website.  That site’s mission statement is as follows:

“Forty years ago at Ole Miss, success was measured in championships.  However, the passion for Ole Miss athletics has dissolved into a culture of mediocrity.

After four decades of waiting on the Ole Miss athletic department to devote the attention our sports programs deserve, a grassroots coalition of passionate fans has joined to form The Forward Rebels!

We have one question for you, Rebels.  Are you ready for change?

If so, we invite you to join us as we move Ole Miss Athletics forward to excellence.”

Amidst all the grumbling, Boone met with the Mississippi media yesterday to discuss the Rebel program.  Asked if he senses “a movement of discontent” among major UM boosters, Boone said:

“I think it’s frustration of this past year.  I don’t think there’s any question about it.  A lot of it has to do with losing to a rival team.  Those scabs don’t heal very easily.  At the same time, when we have record donations, more people are members of our foundation now than ever before, the facts say that Ole Miss is ready to move forward.  The facts say that fans are supporting Ole Miss programs, not the emotion of time.

“I’m going to join Forward Rebels.  I think it’s great.  It’s about unifying the base, about unifying everybody.  That’s what I’ve been trying to preach the last several weeks to our donors.  ‘Listen, we can’t get caught.  There are too few of us against too many, and we have to be together.’  I feel very good about the response we’ve gotten from those folks, looking for ways to get together and to succeed.

“The issues with regard to those letters and things like that, I understand their frustration.  The method is probably not one I would choose, but fans are fans.  When you lose, the hot dogs don’t taste as good, and the bathrooms are not as clean.  When you win, nobody notices anything.  If we get ourselves back to where we need to be and what we need to be doing, I think a lot of those frustrations will go by the wayside.”

Boone also made it clear that under his watch UM has run one of the cleanest programs in the SEC:

“I’m so focused on compliance.  Y’all have been reading about all the issues out there.  That’s not going to happen at Ole Miss.  Maybe other than Vanderbilt, Ole Miss may be the only school since our 1994 (NCAA investigation) — which brought me into this world — without a major investigation from the NCAA.  We’re going to have institutional control.

“But when you do that you’re telling a coach he can’t do this or that.  You’re putting monitors in place, and they say, ‘You don’t trust me.’  That’s just the nature.  To me, the integrity of Ole Miss is at stake.  I’m going to do everything I can do, and my boss expects me to do that.  Those kinds of things build up over time.”

Build up good… or build up bad?  From the context it’s not easy to tell what he’s getting at here — Ole Miss’ compliance record or coaches feeling as though they’re not trusted.  (Which was an odd thing to volunteer in the first place.)

Also, while Boone is correct to say winning masks bad hot dogs and dirty restrooms — another odd example to use — an AD always must be cognizant of how his words will appear in print.  Will Rebel fans understand and accept his “fans are fans” line or will they take it as being a bit too dismissive? 

On another note, we definitely believe Boone is wise to angle his way into the Forward Rebels movement.  It seems as though that organization views Boone and the UM administration as part of the problem.  Why not join them and try to change that perception?  Of course, we’ll have to see how the group responds to Boone joining them.  Guess we’ll have to keep an eye on their website.

Meanwhile, all the turmoil in Oxford has to be pretty entertaining to the folks in Starkville.  Think Dan Mullen is smiling today?

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