HATTIESBURG – Jeff Hammond will not be renewed as Southern Miss athletic director, but has been offered another position at the university, school president Rodney Bennett announced today. Hammond's one-year contract will run out June 30, when associate athletic director Jeremy McClain will take over the position on an interim basis.
“Our current athletics director, Gen. Jeff Hammond, has served our country through his military career with honor and distinction. I personally like General Hammond and respect him as a USM alum,” Bennett said. “However, I have decided to not renew his contract beyond its ending date of June 30, 2013.”
Bennett said that it was important to him to “assemble my own leadership team.”
McClain will not be a candidate for the full-time athletic director's position.
Bennett described Hammond as “obviously disappointed” in the decision, but he hopes to receive word from Hammond soon on whether he would accept a different position. Bennett did not reveal the details of Hammond's potential new job.
“There is a place for Gen. Hammond in my administration, and I have extended an opportunity for him to continue to serve USM in other areas,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he hoped to have a new athletic director in Hattiesburg no later than Aug. 31.
Bennett has hired the search firm Eastman and Beaudine and asked former University of Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley to serve as a consultant in the process to hire a new USM athletic director.
Eastman and Beaudine's CEO, Bob Beaudine, and Dooley were both in attendance at today's press conference, seated on each side of Bennett.
Dooley said that he was approached a month ago by Bennett about getting involved in the process to hire a new athletic director at USM.
Bennett became acquainted with Dooley when he was vice president for student affairs at Georgia.
“I'm very pleased to be here and look forward to learning more about Southern Miss,” Dooley said. “As a football coach, I never looked forward to playing Southern Miss. It was always a struggle through the years. I'm very anxious to learn and the reason I'm here is because of Dr. Bennett. I know him as a person from his time at Georgia. I doubt if you could find one person that wouldn't share the fact that he's a man of quality, leadership and integrity.”
Hammond, who replaced former athletic director Richard Giannini in January 2012, is a former Southern Miss quarterback and a former Army major general.