Patrick Magee

Who will be the next AD at Southern Miss?

Former Southern Miss football coach Jeff Bower has drawn some buzz as the school’s next athletic director.
Former Southern Miss football coach Jeff Bower has drawn some buzz as the school’s next athletic director. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Bill McGillis took over an unstable Southern Miss athletic department and a divided fan base in 2013.

On Monday, he announced his resignation as USM athletic director to take on a similar position at the University of San Diego beginning next month.

He leaves the program on much better footing in terms of finances and confidence.

There’s plenty of work to be done in all areas, but McGillis was the type of administrator USM needed following a period of uncertainty after the departure of Richard Giannini in 2011 and the tumult that followed.

As former USM football coach Jeff Bower pointed out, McGillis brought “class” to the situation.

USM supporters are now left to ponder the future of an athletic department in need of an infusion of cash and a conference upgrade. At least that’s fans will be asking for when the new athletic director is introduced.

In place ‘as quickly as possible’

It appears as if USM President Rodney Bennett would like to have this resolved in a matter of weeks and not months. In an email to USM supporters, Bennett wrote he wants to have someone in place “as quickly as possible, taking into account the holiday season is upon us.”

McGillis steps down on Jan. 17 and the announcement of his successor may be not that far removed from that date. However, things change and the search could always play out a little longer.

Head strength and conditioning coach Zac Woodfin will serve as the interim athletic director, but he is not a candidate for the permanent position.

There are some names that have been immediately tied to the opening, including Troy athletic director Jeremy McClain, who served as deputy athletic director at USM for three years before being hired at Troy in August 2015.

McClain is still relatively new on the job at Troy so he may be reluctant to leave for another school so soon. Also, there may be better opportunities ahead if he decides to be patient. In his early 40s, McClain has a bright future.

Bower will also be a popular candidate among many of the school’s boosters. The 63-year-old would bring instant credibility and the ability to connect with all segments of the fan base, but he may not be all that interested at this point.

He may not be the youthful figure that some would like for the job, but he’d be a great asset when it comes to fundraising and there’s little doubt he’d be a solid administrator.

Bower wasn’t immediately ready to jump into the fray after news of McGillis’ departure, but he seemed willing to at least lend a helping hand in finding his replacement.

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

Potential candidates

NAIA President Jim Carr, a Gulfport native, drew some buzz last time around for the USM job and would be a solid option.

Daniel Feig, who is the executive associate athletic director at USM, is sure to get a close look. Feig has played a large role at USM since being hired in August 2015. He was previously director of compliance at Alabama.

Feig may be the odds-on favorite at the moment.

Former USM associate athletic director Scott Carr is now at Central Florida in a similar role. He’s also a popular figure among some of the school’s boosters and would be a strong candidate if he’s interested.

Mario Moccia was approached about the USM job in 2013 when he was the athletic director at Southern Illinois. He has been at his alma mater of New Mexico State for two years now.

Central Arkansas athletic director Brad Teague, a former Delta State athletic director, has also been considered a potential candidate at USM in the past and would be a viable option this time around as well.

Bennett plans to conduct a national search and plenty of new names will emerge in the coming weeks.

Southern Miss topped ULL 28-21 in New Orleans.

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