Ole Miss Basketball: 2018-2019 Will Be Crossroads for Ole Miss Athletics

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 13: Head coach Andy Kennedy of the Mississippi Rebels reacts during the second round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Georgia Dome on March 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 13: Head coach Andy Kennedy of the Mississippi Rebels reacts during the second round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Georgia Dome on March 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Ole Miss basketball is winding down it’s season and soon Althletics Director Ross Bjork and Chancellor Jeff Vitter will have some tough decisions to make.

A really rough Ole Miss basketball season is winding down and Ole Miss spring sports are about to be in full swing. There is much anticipation for this year’s Rebels baseball and Rebels Softball teams. There are high expectations for both and nothing short of hosting a NCAA regional will be satisfactory.

Sometime during the spring the Ole Miss football program will learn the fate of the NCAA appeal. We will either get relief and go on about our business or we will not win the appeal. Law suits will go forward that will open cans of worms that in my opinion are not good for multiple schools.  You can read into that what you will.

I for one believe Ole Miss will win their appeal and we will get the 2018 bowl game back, official visit limits will be reinstated and possibly lack of institutional control will be lifted. As soon as the basketball seasons end, Ross Bjork will have decisions to make. It appears the Andy Kennedy era for Ole Miss basketball is about to come to a sour end. This year’s team with all of the hype has not lived up to expectations resulting in the worst season in years.

Time For A Hardwood Change

Ole Miss Rebels Football
Ole Miss Rebels Football /

Ole Miss Rebels Football

Andy has been coaching Ole Miss basketball for twelve years and I think it’s time for a change for not only Ole Miss but for Andy Kennedy as well.  He has done some good things for the Rebel basketball program but the lack of NCAA tournament bids stick out like a sore thumb.

A fresh start for Kennedy may be best for him and his family. With The Pavilion Arena and plenty of money Ross should be able to land a top-notch coach.

There will be several lining up for interviews and this writer hopes Kermit Davis, Jr. from Middle Tennessee State is one of them.  He has done an excellent job there and his dad coached at Mississippi State and Kermit Jr. played for the Bulldogs.

He knows Mississippi and the south. Before you lambaste me for suggesting a Bulldog alum, don’t forget our Hall of Fame Women’s coach, Van Chancellor was from MSU. If Davis is the right man for the job, his college sheepskin should have no impact on his candidacy. There are many others as well. Chancellor Vitter came from Kansas, a basketball power and I believe the Chancellor wants a big time coach for Ole Miss basketball.

More Tough AD Decisions

On the Women’s basketball side, I think Matt Insell should get at least another year. It’s not helping him that Mississippi State ladies could be knocking on the door of a national title come March madness. Ross will have to sit down with Matt and determine if he is moving the program forward. Needless to say Ross’s legacy may be determined in the 2018-19 academic year. The men’s basketball hire is huge and he has to get it right.

Bjork could be in decision mode in May if the baseball team disappoints. There is too much talent on this team to not compete for a SEC and national championship. Like Kennedy Mike Bianco has been at Ole Miss a long time, eighteen years to be exact. And like Kennedy he has been on the short end of the big dance with only one trip to Omaha.

The Ole Miss baseball program is one of the best in the country and competing for titles should be an annual occurrence. Anything short of a super regional this season is unacceptable with maybe the best pitching staff in the country and Ole Miss history. With the top recruiting classes as of late and a top ten facility, failure is not an option for Coach Bianco. Otherwise, Ross may have to pull the trigger again. He will have the choice of the litter in regards to candidates for this baseball program. The line will be longer than people waiting to get into a Taylor Swift concert.

Cautious Optimism Surrounding Football

After baseball, here comes football. The 2018 season is maybe the most critical for Ole Miss’s long-term success maybe ever! Why? Because the Mississippi high school 2019 recruits may be the best crop to ever come out of the magnolia state. There are multiple four and five-star players and many of these kids have talked about playing together.

Regardless of the NCAA appeal Ole Miss has to have a winning season and beat Mississippi State again. If Matt Luke pulls that  off, the Rebels would have won four of the last five meetings with the Bulldogs. These top recruits will take notice. We can’t let Alabama, Auburn, LSU and others come into Mississippi and snag these kids. If that happens, it could set the Rebel football program back for years, hence putting Matt Luke’s tenure in jeopardy.

Based on the 2018 signing class, my money is on Matt Luke to have a great season and possibly a top ten recruiting class in 2019.  So, there you have it. The Ole Miss athletic department is at a crossroads and Ross Bjork will have many decisions to make over the next several months. Those critical decisions will determine the fate of not only athletic success but it will either secure Ross as the best Athletics Director in Ole Miss history or that job, too, will be open.

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Again, my money is on Ross.  The handling of the NCAA investigation, the Hugh Freeze saga and now the potential hiring of multiple coaches will solidify Ross Bjork in Ole Miss folklore.  If the hiring of ladies softball coach Mike Smith is any indication I believe he will get this right and great days are ahead in Oxford.  All we have to do is take the right forks in the road.  Easy enough, right?