Southern Miss

Southern Miss athletic director steps down

Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis will leave the school in January.
Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis will leave the school in January. Associated Press

Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis has accepted the position of associate vice president and executive director of athletics at the University of San Diego, USM announced on Monday.

McGillis will leave his job at USM in mid-January and start at USD on January 23.

USM's head strength and conditioning coach, Zac Woodfin, has been named the school's interim athletic director. Woodfin is a UAB graduate and considered a rising star in his profession.

USM hired McGillis, a Seattle native, as its new athletic director in July 2013.

“I am grateful to Bill for his good work here, and I am excited for this new opportunity for Bill and his family,” USM president Rodney D. Bennett said in a press release. “I want to reaffirm my commitment to athletics and the critical role it plays not only in enhancing the overall student experience, but also in elevating the profile of the institution and bolstering our region and state as an economic driver for South Mississippi.”

Bennett, who hired McGillis, plans to use a national search firm to help find his replacement.

McGillis replaced Jeff Hammond, who filled the roll for a year after Richard Giannini's retirement in late in 2011.

McGillis worked as executive associate athletic athletic director at South Florida prior to landing at USM.

In an open letter from McGillis to the USM community, he said that part of the reason for his decision to leave was his desire to move back to the West Coast.

“It has been an unbelievable privilege and true blessing to serve as the Director of Athletics at Southern Miss and to call Hattiesburg our home,” McGillis said. “Quite simply, we are at a point in our life and career at which resetting our priorities is important. The University of San Diego presents a very special opportunity to return to the West Coast to be near both my, and my wife Margie's, entire families and to serve one of the great Catholic universities in America -- critical factors that make this the right decision for our family.

“We will leave Southern Miss with a heavy heart and very mixed emotions. Margie and I will be forever grateful for the kindness extended to our family throughout our time here, the special friendships we have made, and for the wonderful support of our program and student-athletes.”

McGillis oversaw several fund-raising projects during his time as athletic director, including a new locker room for football and plans for the Bower Academic Excellence Center, which is to be named after former USM head coach Jeff Bower.

“I had a good relationship with him and I thought he did a really good job,” Bower said Monday shortly after finding out the news. “I respected him a lot. I appreciated what he did for us. I think we made some big strides in terms of fund-raising and he did everything first class.”

When asked if he would be interested in replacing McGillis, Bower said he was still processing the news of his departure.

“You know I love this university and I'd help in anyway I can,” he said.

McGillis had to hire a men's basketball coach and a head football coach during his time at USM.

He hired Doc Sadler, a former Nebraska and UTEP head coach, to take over the men's basketball program in 2014. It's been a difficult ride for Sadler largely thanks to NCAA sanctions following an investigation of Donnie Tyndall's time as head coach from 2012-14. Sadler is 20-47 in three years at the school.

Todd Monken resigned as the USM head football coach in January to take the job of offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

McGillis hired Jay Hopson, who was at Alcorn State, as Monken's replacement. Hopson finished 7-6 in his first season with a 28-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday in the New Orleans Bowl.

Woodfin oversees the strength and conditioning program for all 15 sports at USM. He was named the 2014 Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. He previously worked as a strength and conditioning coach at UAB and for the Green Bay Packers.

Woodfin was a star linebacker at UAB and played for the Packers, the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans in the NFL.