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July 18, 2013

McGillis aims to build on USM's success

Just one short month after Southern Miss began the search for a new athletic director, the school has found its man.

South Florida executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis was named USM's sixth director of athletics Thursday at a news conference in the Trent Lott Center on campus.

McGillis comes to Hattiesburg after serving five years as the associate AD at USF. During his tenure in Tampa McGillis helped double the season ticket sales at South Florida and was an integral part in making the university one of the top selling brands in the nation. He also sparked a $69 million facelift of the Bulls' Athletics District, including the construction of a new baseball stadium and track complex.

"We wanted a person who could take a program and move it into national prominence across the spectrum. We wanted an individual that had national contacts and someone who is committed to student-athletes and their success," Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett said. "Bill McGillis is a seasoned and experienced athletic administrator who has a proven record of helping student-athletes accomplish their academic and athletic goals."

Bennett began the search for a new athletic director on June 19 after it was announced former Southern Miss AD Jeff Hammond would not be retained past his contract expiration date of June 30.

McGillis said he took notice of USM early on in his career and has continued to be impressed by the tradition of the school's athletics program.

"I think it's a very strong athletics program," McGillis said. "Southern Miss is a place where you can achieve excellence. History has proven that. You can win here."

Bennett acquired the services of Texas-based consulting firm Eastman and Boudine to help find the new AD. Also assisting in the hiring process was a committee handpicked by Bennett that included the current SGA president and university staff. Among those on the committee was vocal Hammond supporter and prominent Southern Miss alumnus Chuck Scianna.

"Jeff's shoes are big shoes to fill...and he (McGillis) is the guy to fill those shoes. He's got the experience, he's got the drive, all he needs is the support of the alumni and the university and I think he'll have that," Scianna said.

"This is all about the university. It's time for us to come together. As I said in my letter, Ross Perot's quote� 'Eagles soar and turkeys flop.' It's time for the Eagles to soar and everybody's got an invitation."

McGillis addressed the current issues facing the athletic department but was confident in his ability to turn things around.

"I'm aware of the environment. I wanted to come to a place where I can make a difference, where I can move the needle and help people achieve their dreams," he said. "I think that opportunity to serve the community at Southern Miss provides me the opportunity to make a difference."

While McGillis did touch on a variety of topics - from conference realignment to expanding facilities - his main focus remained on increasing revenue and putting fans in the stands.

"I will have a very acute focus on enhancing resources here and identifying ways to increase attendance in every single revenue stream that we have," he said. "If we want to get to the top and not just talk about it, we have to increase our resources."

Perhaps his best line of the day came toward the end of his introductory speech.

"I envision great, great things here," McGillis said. "We are not going to take a backseat to anybody in this state, or anybody in the conference or anybody in the country."

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