Things aren’t exactly happening per normal for Ole Miss athletics in March, and now April – in fact, things aren’t happening at all.
It’s a strange time in the world and a strange time for sports. In Oxford and at Ole Miss specifically, it’s a strange time for Rebel student-athletes and Rebel fans. No packed outfield at Swayze Field and no athletics altogether have led to a lull, an unknown and a lot of waiting.
On Tuesday, Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter had a message for Rebel fans and most importantly, the Ole Miss student-athletes themselves. Below is that full letter:
Dear Rebel Nation:
As we often say in college athletics, everything we do is for the student-athletes. Without them, none of us would be in our positions. And while we are all disappointed and struggling for answers during this uncertain time for our country, our staff remains focused on providing support and leadership for our 371 student-athletes. As you may have seen in media reports, some of their families are among those that have been hit by the coronavirus, and we ask that you keep them in your prayers during these difficult days.
Despite limited access to campus, the university remains open, and the student body began online classes this week. As we detailed on Wednesday, the Student-Athlete Development staff has done a tremendous job preparing our Rebels for this major shift in coursework. Bob Baker’s staff has coordinated more than 300 virtual academic sessions this week while still conducting team study halls, one-on-one advising sessions and daily grade reports for coaching staffs. While we know they want to be reunited with their fellow students, I’m proud of how our student-athletes are adapting to this change in lifestyle and how our staff has dedicated themselves to guiding our Rebels through these challenging conditions. Beginning next week, the student-athletes’ routine will expand to include two hours of virtual team meetings per week, as our squads are already beginning their preparation for the 2020-21 campaign.
In addition to academic support, our administration is continuing to evaluate and determine ways we can aid our student-athletes remotely. One opportunity we identified is through the NCAA’s allowance to provide a meal incidental to participation. By utilizing those regulations, we are sending all of our student-athletes a $105 gift card to a popular restaurant each week. A big thank you to Lance Reed and the Oxford Chick-fil-A location for helping us provide our first shipment of cards. We are also exploring opportunities for fans to offer financial assistance to student-athletes who are facing extreme circumstances. Be on the lookout for an Ignite campaign announcement in the days ahead.
As our talented content team reminded us on Monday, few things are better than Saturdays in Vaught-Hemingway, and we can’t wait to be together this fall. The more we take the necessary safety precautions now, the quicker our lives return to normal. Please stay home and take care of yourself and your families.