Jeremy McClain was officially introduced by President Rodney Bennett as The University of Southern Mississippi’s next athletic director on April 8 in the Trent Lott Center.
“I was really familiar with Jeremy with his quality of work familiar with his national connection and familiar with all the things that all a university president needs to be familiar with,” Bennett said. “When thinking about a person for this position but there were other individuals that were sort of on the list as you were at least a list in my head. [It] revealed and really known on certain terms the characteristics if you certainly them on a sheet of paper and mark down that paper with a check mark it just spoke to Jeremy McClain.”
Southern Miss began its search for a new athletic director in December 2018 after former athletic director Jon Gilbert left to serve as East Carolina University’s athletic director.
McClain had served as Troy University’s athletic director since 2015, but prior to his time at Troy, McClain was Southern Miss’ deputy director of athletics, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations for three years. McClain also served as Delta State University’s athletic director prior to his time at Southern Miss.
Under McClain’s tenure, Troy saw multiple conference championships in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. The school also broke attendance records in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, softball and soccer. McClain also oversaw and negotiated a partnership with ESPN3 and ESPN+.
“I was an AD for six years [at Delta State] before I came to Southern Miss and I was fortunate enough that Jeff Hammond hired me to come to Southern Miss,” McClain said. “Going to Troy allowed me to be back in that chair and really at Troy we had an opportunity to build something. It was a great kind of landscape, I wouldn’t say a blank canvas but there was a great opportunity to effect change and so it allowed me to think [strategically] to put a plan in place. My four years at Troy was a great experience and helped prepare me for whatever comes my way because we really had a chance in a short period of time and those four years to affect that institution in that department in a really good, positive way.”
Bennett said that McClain will be signed to a four-year deal and that the contract will receive the same “considerations” that former athletic directors Bill McGillis and Jon Gilbert were offered. Gilbert made an annual salary of $350,000, however, Bennett also stated that some details of the contract still needed to be figured out before being released.
Southern Miss baseball coach Scott Berry believes that the hire will bring stability as well as history with the athletic department.
“I was very encouraged when I got the word that Jeremy was going to be the new athletic director,” Berry said. “What was really important to me is that we were getting someone that new the landscape of Southern Miss and new the challenges of Southern Miss. There’s a reason why Jeremy came back. It’s not like some of the others who have been here. He came back home. It feels like he can take us to another level and with a plan in place based on probably a lot of the time he’s spent here when he worked here.”
For basketball coach Doc Sadler, he was also pleased to hear the news of McClain’s hire and is very optimistic on McClain’s plan to maximize the resources that Southern Miss has.
“The coaches that are here have had the opportunity to work with him,” Sadler said. “I think the biggest key is what he said, and that’s maximize what we have. We have things, but let’s get the most out of that. That’s probably what I’m encouraged by, what we do have and he understands that and he’s going to allow us to use those things.”
According to Bennett, interim athletic director Jeff Mitchell and interim deputy director Brian Morrison are currently slated to remain on staff.
“Jeff Mitchell and Brian Morrison have been outstanding employees for The University of Southern Mississippi,” Bennett said. “I’m very excited about the three of them working together and I would submit that you would be hard-pressed to find another athletics administrative team that can be better than or more effective than Jeremy, Jeff and Brian. I think that our group has the ability to compete at any level against any group of senior athletic administrators.”
McClain says that he plans to start in May, but his appointment to the position is still pending IHL Board approval, McClain will start no later than July 1.
“I’m not a guy who is out looking for a job and I wasn’t looking for this job. If I’m going to come to a place I’m going to be committed to it,” McClain said. “What I am going to do here is be committed to being here long-term. There’s nothing I think worse than walking away from something when you haven’t gotten to the finish line and completed what you wanted to complete. My plan is to get us to the finish line on a lot of things we are trying to do so I plan on being here for a while.”