HATTIESBURG Southern Miss unveiled Bill McGillis as its new athletic director Thursday, ending a month-long search.
McGillis, 50, comes to USM after spending seven years at South Florida, where he was elevated to the position of executive associate athletic director in 2008.
He was the athletic director at Evansville from 2002-2007 and served as senior associate athletic director at both Houston and New Mexico.
McGillis replaces Jeff Hammond, who was not renewed as USM athletic director when his contract expired at the end of June.
New USM president Rodney Bennett introduced the new athletic director to fans and media, saying that McGillis fit the mold of what the search committee was looking for.
We wanted a person who could take a program and move it into national prominence across the spectrum, Bennett said. We wanted an individual that had national contacts and someone who is committed to student-athletes and their success.
It's been a tumultuous two years at USM with turnover at athletic director, football coach and men's basketball coach.
McGillis spoke Wednesday of welcoming the challenge ahead and tapping into the university's potential.
Southern Miss is a place where you can achieve excellence. History has proven that, McGillis said. You can win here. I also know it's a place that might need leadership at this time. I'm aware of the environment. I wanted to come to a place where I can make a difference, where I can move the needle and help people achieve their dreams. I think that opportunity to serve the community at Southern Miss provides me the opportunity to make a difference.
Bennett pieced together a diverse search committee that included Texas businessman and alumnus Chuck Scianna, student government president Ann Marie Chilcutt, dean of the College of Arts and Letters Steve Moser and executive assistant to the president for external affairs, Chad Driskell.
The search firm of Eastman and Beaudine, Inc., and former Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley also played vital roles in the search process.
McGillis said he and his family recently made the 10-hour drive to Hattiesburg to visit the campus and community. At the end of the trip, McGillis said he called Bob Beaudine, head of the search firm, to say, I'm in, we're in.
At South Florida, McGillis served as the sport administrator for football, baseball and softball programs and was responsible for leading the department's revenue-generating units, including marketing, ticket sales, licensing, merchandising and communications.
One of McGillis' main challenges at USM is to find new ways to raise funds for the athletic department.
I wouldn't have come here if I didn't think we had the capacity to raise more money and increase attendance at Southern Miss, Beaudine said. The single most important thing to increasing resources is putting people in the seats.