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Ole Miss AD Keith Carter Talks Women’s Basketball, Renovations, NIL, and Spring Sports

Ole Miss AD Keith Carter Talks Women’s Basketball, Renovations, NIL, and Spring Sports

OXFORD, Miss. — When four-year starter Keith Carter played basketball for Ole Miss from 1995-1999, he probably never imagined he would one day be leading the entire athletic department of the university.  

As a Rebel on the court, Carter made Ole Miss proud and proved himself a disciplined and intelligent player and leader.  Now, as the Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics, Keith Carter is again proving to be an intelligent leader whose main objective is to see Ole Miss athletics soar to new heights.  

We recently sat down with Carter for a retrospective of women’s basketball this season and a look at spring sports and ongoing and upcoming renovations.

Coach Yo and Ole Miss Women’s Basketball

We asked Carter to comment on Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin and her team’s historic run in the NCAA Tournament. “She’s (Coach McPhee-McCuin) done a fantastic job,” Carter began. 

When she got here, our program was really not in very good shape, and that first year she was just trying to find players to be on the team.  To go from that to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and the Sweet 16, you have to give her a lot of credit for the things she’s done, her staff has done, and course what our student-athletes have done.  We couldn’t be happier for her.  It just shows when you put in the hard work, and you do it the right way, you get rewarded.  We are happy for the run they made this year and overall where the program is.

Keith Carter on what Coach Yo has done for the program

Carter traveled to Stanford and then to Seattle to watch the Rebels in NCAA tournament play.  As a former student-athlete, he appreciated the opportunity the team was blessed with and was happy to witness them celebrate their successes.  

Being there as we beat Stanford in their home building was really cool.  Seeing how excited the young ladies were, and obviously Coach Yo and her staff, and then to go to Seattle and play in the Sweet 16 game and be able to be there and support the team was a great moment.  I think, as the AD that’s what you look for, moments like that where student-athletes are getting experiences they’ll never forget. They’ll get to talk about that for the rest of their lives to their kids and their grandkids.  It was really fun and exciting to know we’re just getting started.

Keith Carter

With winning and success, a program soon has other institutions looking to lure its coach to their university. Carter fully understands and has experienced how the process works and had this to say about the prospect of other universities wanting Coach Yo to be their coach. 

I think any time you’ve had success it’s going to get noticed.  That’s where we’ve got to make sure we show her (Coach Yo) we want her here and continuing to grow here. I think we saw it in football with Coach Kiffin. You always see it when coaches are successful.  They’re going to draw interest from other places.  We feel we’re doing things the right way here at Ole Miss, and we feel our programs are on the rise and Ole Miss is a great place to be.

Keith Carter

The success of women’s basketball this season brought a larger group of fans to The Pavilion that the Rebels had experienced in many years.  Students were eager to support the team, as were the residents of Oxford and other fans who showed up more as the season progressed.  

This increased support for women’s basketball does not escape Carter. 

Anytime you’ve got a winner, people want to be a part of it.  Coach Yo talked about that early on in her tenure that this is going to happen and you need to come and be a part of it.  I think we saw that.  If you look at the game we played against South Carolina, there were 6,500 people there and a lot of them were students who were excited.  I think it’s something to grow on. I know we’ve already sold some new season tickets for next year.  People have been excited about both the women’s and men’s programs.  I think the students are such a part of that home-court advantage and want to be a part of it.  So, I think we’ll see that grow.

Keith Carter on increased fan support for women’s basketball

More than 6,500 came to watch Ole Miss play No. 1 South Carolina in The Pavilion. (Photo credit: Ole Miss Athletics)

Chris Beard Hired as Men’s Basketball Coach

Carter recently hired Chris Beard to be the new Ole Miss Men’s Basketball coach.  Some fans expected the search for a new coach to last longer than it did. However, Carter says the selection was obvious and explained why Beard was chosen. 

“Obviously, we had to work through a few things and do some due diligence on the not basketball part of it.  We got to where we felt very comfortable and confident in all of that,” Carter explained. 

From a basketball perspective, there wasn’t a better coach out there.  When you look at what he (Coach Beard) has been able to accomplish with different programs and then taking three different programs to the NCAA Tournament, winning games in the NCAA Tournament, and coaching on Monday night for the National Championship with Texas Tech, for us to have an opportunity to get a coach of that magnitude is just very unique. Looking at it from our perspective, we thought our search started and ended with him if we could get him.  We feel really great about that, and he’s obviously now trying to build the staff and fill the roster and all those things.  We hope he can continue the quick turnaround magic he’s had at other places and get us to the tournament really soon.

Keith Carter on Chris Beard

The Grove Collective, NIL and the Transfer Portal

We asked Carter about the progress and benefit of The Grove Collective, and he says the collective is doing a fantastic job. The structure that has been put in place, coupled with their process of doing things, has been beneficial.  

(Click here to learn more about and join The Grove Collective.)

I think we’ve got to continue to evaluate what those resources look like,” Carter said. “When you throw in bigger sports like the football, the basketball, and baseball programs, that number is going to continue to grow because you look around the country and you see some members that are pretty large.  I think we’re in a good spot.  (The Grove Collective Director) Walker (Jones) and his team are doing great at working closely with legal, compliance,  folks here on campus, and the Athletics Foundation to make sure everything is being done in the right way.  We look forward to growing the collective and seeing where it takes us.”


Keith Carter on The Grove Collective

As of December 2022, twenty-six states have passed laws regarding high school students being allowed to receive some level of monetary compensation for their name, image, and likeness (NIL).  

Some wonder how this will impact universities’ recruiting practices going forward. Carter believes the jury is still out a little bit on the issue.  In his discussion with coaches, the Ole Miss AD says the issue hasn’t come up a great deal where coaches say a particular state has more of an advantage because of their high school NIL opportunities.  

Coaches do quickly inform Carter when they feel Ole Miss is falling behind in recruitment practices and something needs to be changed.  

So far, high school NIL isn’t an issue. However, Carter does believe the transfer portal has changed the landscape of college sports and he explained his view to us. 

“A lot of success in the future is probably going to be based on the portal,” Carter explains.

Ole Miss, traditionally, has not been able to go out and get a lot of five-star recruits.  We’re going to get our share, and we’re going to have connections to some four-star and five-star guys and gals. But the portal really levels the playing field because you can get some folks that maybe go other places and you’ve recruited them.  Maybe we finished second in that recruiting process.  They go to the other place where it doesn’t work out as well and they remember Ole Miss recruiting them and Oxford being such a great place.  So, we wind up getting them on the second go around.  That’s why recruiting is so important.  You may not get them initially, but you want to continue to hold on to the relationship because you never know when it might come back. We’re still in the early stages of NIL and the transfer portal and where we go with Reb Share with student-athletes. I think the next couple of years are going to be very interesting.

Keith Carter on the transfer portal

Spring Sports and facilities upgrades

Spring is here, and with it come many sporting events and games.  Among those has been spring training for football with this year’s camp culminating in last Saturday’s Grove Bowl.

Carter says football head coach Lane Kiffin and his staff are pleased with the progress of the team. While depth issues at certain positions remain, Carter feels good about where the team is headed going into year four under Coach Kiffin.  

“Spring is always important to kind of have that competition at different positions to see who’s going to rise to the top and take the spots,” Carter said. “I’m excited to go to the spring game and see where we are around the middle of April and go from there.”

(Click here to read about the 2023 Grove Bowl.)

Renovations to the Manning Center are nearing completion, with a move-in date sometime in the middle of July.  The coaches will return to the Manning Center, which will be up and running and fully functional.  The athletics administration will move back into their old building. 

Carter went on to explain the upcoming renovations to other facilities, telling us the new softball stadium construction will begin right after the conclusion of this season.  Renovations to the Ole Miss soccer and golf venues, and some additional updates to the baseball stadium are also on the horizon.

Baseball is a sport Ole Miss fans have been waiting on all year. As the team is struggling thus far in league play this year, one has to wonder if they feel any added pressure from their title of returning national champion.  

Carter doesn’t believe so. “There’s always going to be an inherent pressure because we’re expected to make a run to Omaha late in the post-season,” he said.  Coach Bianco has done such a fantastic job of building our program to that level.  I think if anything last year might have taken a little bit of the pressure off,” Carter added.

I think this year, unfortunately, we’ve had some injuries and had some things kind of go against us.  We’ve had a lot of close games where we just haven’t gotten the break.  That can turn around really quickly in baseball.  Hopefully, we’ll get a couple of pitchers back at some point in April and hopefully make a late charge down the stretch.

Keith Carter on baseball

With five SEC series yet to be played, and three of those coming in the friendly confines of Swayze Field, it is definitely not outside the realm of possibility for the Rebels to make a run.

Additionally, Coach Bianco hopes to have ace Hunter Elliott return soon — perhaps even for this weekend’s series vs. LSU. Elliott has been out since suffering from forearm tightness in the opening game of the season against Delaware. The Rebs may also laster this month see the return of pitcher Riley Maddox, who will be coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Turning to other spring sports at Ole Miss, Carter says both the men’s and women’s golf teams are doing great.  Track and field had a strong indoor season finish, and now those athletes are competing in their outdoor season.  Although softball got off to a slow start, they have begun to play better and things are headed in a positive direction.

Come to the ‘Sip

Carter wants fans to know spring is a great time to come to Oxford if you love sports.  

Spring is so fun because you have so many events. If you’re looking to come to Oxford and spend time watching sports, this is the time of year to do it…What I really love about some of the Olympic sports is everyone expects football, baseball, and basketball to have a great attendance.  What’s really cool is if you go out and watch a tennis match or go watch our golf teams, you can intimately get involved with the viewing process.  You can really get up close and personal and get to know the student-athletes…These athletes work just as hard on the field of play, the classroom, in training, and the weight room.  They deserve our attention as well.  I encourage fans to check out those schedules and go watch them play.”

Keith Carter

As another school year draws to a close, fans are already anticipating next year.  Coaches and student-athletes are already preparing.  So what should fans do over the summer to prepare as well? 

“First and foremost, buy season tickets,” Carter began. “That’s important in all of our sports…If we can sell out all those venues that’s obviously great for home-court advantage and great from a revenue perspective. It helps us operate and function at a really high level.  We talk about our capital campaign and NIL and donating to various things which are all important as well,” he commented.

Carter continued with a call to fans to show their support at games and back in their hometowns.

Wherever you are, wear your Ole Miss shirt and talk about Ole Miss and all the great things happening here, not only in athletics but from the university as a whole. We’re in a really good place. Chancellor Boyce has done a fantastic job of leading our university.  We feel in athletics, we’ve got some really cool things going on…..Hopefully, we are just getting started.

Keith Carter

Keith Carter remains steadfast in his dedication to Ole Miss and his position as Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics. He supports student-athletes striving to become the best at what they do because he understands the commitment and sacrifice required to succeed.

With a clear vision for what he wants to accomplish, Carter continues his journey to making Ole Miss athletics a top contender for championships in all sports. The future looks bright with Carter at the helm. So, fans may want to jump on board now while they can still get season tickets.

Hotty Toddy!

Donna Sprabery

Donna Sprabery

Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.

About The Author

Donna Sprabery

Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.

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