My name is Alan Thompson and I currently serve as the NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) for The University of Southern Mississippi. The primary responsibility of this position is to support the institution’s mission and protect its integrity by maintaining an appropriate balance between academics and athletics.
In an ideal world, there would never be a need for the FAR to speak or be known publicly — such anonymity would indicate that the priorities of the athletics program are properly aligned with the mission and values of the institution. Quite unfortunately that was not the case last week.
In light of what we now hope to be a resolved matter, I nonetheless still feel obligated to address the concerns that preoccupied so many valued members of the Southern Miss family over the past several days.
To be perfectly clear: The recent decision made by both USM president Rodney Bennett and interim athletics director Jeff Mitchell affirms the institution’s commitment to a culture that places student welfare above all other interests, athletic or otherwise. This priority must always prevail given the life altering adverse consequences that might otherwise occur.
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While I certainly appreciate the desire of many to win games, we must never do so at the cost of student safety or institutional integrity. Both are invaluable commodities that we should vigorously protect because, once compromised, they can never be restored.
Knowing my faculty and staff colleagues as I do, I feel comfortable asserting that they too strongly defend the decision made by Dr. Bennett and Mr. Mitchell, both of whom work tirelessly to move Southern Miss forward on a positive trajectory. We stand unified in the view that it is never acceptable to even remotely entertain the notion that winning any contest is ever more important than maintaining the ethical principles we seek to instill in those whose lives and minds we shape daily.
In situations such as this I often reflect upon the words of Sam Houston who said: “Do right, and risk the consequences.” Here, the president and interim AD have done just that. The decision they made was clearly the right one and the consequence they are now due is our appreciation for protecting what so many have worked to create — a university that sets the example for others to follow.
I sincerely hope that you will join me in acknowledging and supporting their decision because they deserve no less. It is now imperative to regain our focus and continue moving “To the Top.”
R. Alan Thompson, Ph.D.
NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative at USM