OXFORD Derek Horne had long finished his Ole Miss basketball career when Keith Carter came along.

That didn’t stop them from playing together, albeit in an unofficial manner.

Horne, now the athletics director at Alcorn State, and Carter, the athletics director at Ole Miss, played pick-up games inside Tad Smith Coliseum.

A Quitman, Georgia, native who played at Ole Miss from 1983-86 and served as team captain as a senior, Horne worked in the athletic department when Carter played from 1996-99.

“He was still playing at high level,” Carter recalls.

The shared sweat – perhaps good-natured insults, too – deepened a friendship which played a part in an Ole Miss “first” last month when a football game between the Rebels and Alcorn State was announced for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in 2028.

It will be the first game between Ole Miss and a SWAC opponent or member of the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

Ole Miss is the last Division I school in the state to schedule a Mississippi SWAC team in a spot reserved for an FCS opponent.

Horne had previous conversations with Ole Miss administrators, but it’s been on Carter’s watch that the deal was done.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened sooner. Here at Ole Miss we need to be intentional about these types of things,” Carter said. “This is something we should be doing a lot more of. Moving forward we’re going to be looking to do more with in-state opponents from the SWAC and with the HBCU’s.”

Horne spent 15 years in athletic administration at Ole Miss beginning in 1995. He is entering his seventh year at Alcorn having previously served as AD at Florida A&M.

He enrolled at Ole Miss in 1982 and later that fall saw John Hawkins, the school’s first black cheerleader, refuse to carry the Confederate flag before football games.

Horne was an employee when the university removed the flag from football games and later when the Col. Reb mascot was banished.

Horne says he’s seen the school evolve in the race discussion.

“I was there for some challenging times. From what I’ve seen through the years the effort has always been there to share and show what Ole Miss is really about, who they really are,” Horne said. “I’ve seen steady progression in what they’ve done and continued to do when you look at minority enrollment and the students they attract.

“What we have to do is continue to try and improve … and that’s all of us across the board.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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