OXFORD • Keith Carter’s immediate goal as interim athletics director at Ole Miss might be for no one to know he’s the interim AD.
While the school also has an interim chancellor at this time, Carter’s intention is to push through with on-going initiatives in what he describes as a successful athletics department.
The biggest focus right now is football season ticket sales. Carter said, in an interview on Tuesday, he wants to study some data after a recently completed online selection process before announcing sale numbers in early July.
His own personality will show up in the department but in a very subtle ways, he said.
As head of The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, the department’s chief revenue-raising arm, Carter managed a staff of 16. Now he leads a staff of 260.
He has not been given parameters for his authority.
Interim chancellor Larry Sparks told Carter, “You act as though you’re the AD, not the interim AD, the AD,” Carter said. “That made me feel good.”
News of the departure of former athletics director Ross Bjork broke during the SEC baseball tournament in late May. Days later, Carter went from becoming an interested observer and sometimes participant at the league’s spring business meeting in Destin to sitting around the conference table with 13 other directors who help shape SEC policy.
“All of a sudden you’re a voting member, and you raise your hand on legislation,” Carter said. “I took a listening approach this year on a lot of it.”
Carter will be listening to baseball coach Mike Bianco today as he conducts an end-of-season evaluation of a coach in one of the school’s high-profile sports for the first time.
The Rebels (41-27) concluded their season last week with a 14-1 loss in Game 3 of the Fayetteville Super Regional.
“We have to look at the reasons why we haven’t been as successful in the postseason, certainly,” Carter said. “The resources are being put in at a very high level, and certainly we want to look at getting to Omaha a little more. Mike will tell you the same thing.”
Carter said he will be able to handle the spike in employees he’s responsible for by trusting his staff.
“You have to rely on great people heading up each unit, and I think we have great people there that I’ve worked with hand-in-hand for the last 10 years,” he said.
Carter sees a department with a “really bright” future after working its way through recent NCAA sanctions after an investigation into the football program.
As he balances working for Ole Miss athletics in the present, with a hopeful eye on landing the permanent job, he appreciates Sparks’ support but will move slowly with possible change.
“You certainly want to do things and make decisions that are right for the department, but implementing a long-term strategy or vision, that probably would be best for the permanent AD. If that’s me, that’s great, but I don’t want to do something that would hamstring a potential permanent AD. I want to be mindful of that,” Carter said.