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Forward Together moves forward under new AD

Photo Courtesy: Ole Miss Sports Information

 

Eight months since the UMAA Foundation announced the Forward Together campaign, an initiative to raise money for a new basketball arena and renovations to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the halfway mark to the goal of $150 million is in sight.

“We’re just over $62 million, approaching $63 million,” said Danny White, senior associate athletics director and executive director for the UMAA Foundation. “The campaign has just been overwhelmingly successful.

“I think it’s a testament to the Ole Miss donors. Our faithful fans and supporters were ready for something like this, and they really stepped up in a big way.”

With the dust settling from a head football coach search and an athletics director search both coming to a close this past month, optimism has taken over where doubt and uncertainty used to reside.

“I think everyone was ready for this transition to be over and for us to get started in a new direction,” White said. 

“It’s hard to quantify what those positive feelings mean, but certainly it’s a better fundraising environment.”

Newly hired athletics director Ross Bjork will be taking over full time this week; however, his presence had already been felt prior to his arrival when it came to fundraising. Bjork mentioned at his press conference this past month that he had already been talking to donors over the phone since his hiring and was looking forward to a strong finish for the Forward Together campaign.

“I’ve known Ross several years just through the industry of college athletics,” White said. “He is widely respected as a fundraiser, and we are excited to work with him.”

Phase one of the campaign is a new basketball arena. With just over $30 million left to reach the phase-one goal of $100 million, White said he hopes they can begin work on the arena in the coming months.

“When we get the funds committed for the arena, we will probably go ahead and start,” White said. “We are hoping to be at the point to do that by the middle of this summer — to hire the architects and start the design and development.” 

The plan is to have the new arena ready by the 2015-16 season.

White knows there is still work to be done but is optimistic that they can stay on schedule.

White said the new basketball arena will not be called the Tad Smith Coliseum.  

“Typically in higher education, the naming of a facility lasts for the life of the facility,” White said. “We are seeking a naming gift for the new arena. If we are successful with that, then there certainly would be a new name. In any event, we don’t expect to carry that name over to the new facility.”

The basketball arena is scheduled to take two years to build, while the football stadium renovations will take less than a year to complete.

With the coming Rebel Road Trip set to begin April 23 with head football coach Hugh Freeze, White is hoping it will generate more donations towards the projects.