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Can new AD McGillis turn things around at USM?

Southern_Miss_LogoThe University of Southern Mississippi football team suffered yet another humbling defeat last weekend when they met the University of Arkansas, falling 24-3. The Golden Eagles have a serious “0-fer” going after losing every game last year and the first three games this year. They have been outscored 102-31 so far in 2013. Dreadful.

The mounting losses have been hard to stomach for a football program that ranks 33rd in all-time winning percentage among all Division I football programs. (For reference, Ole Miss ranks 57th; Mississippi State, 101st.)

Yet, this losing skid is the least of USM’s problems it seems.

According to new athletic director Bill McGillis, less than two months on the job, Southern Miss’ athletic facilities need improvements. Serious improvements. Costly improvements

How many Southern Miss facilities need help? “Every one of them,” he says.

It’s obviously going to take a lot of planning — and money — to get USM athletics back to the competitive product of the past.

“We will have a well- thought-out, well-crafted, very specific strategic plan developed over the course of the rest of the year for achieving the things we want to achieve here,” he said. “I will be diving in all fall, identifying our greatest needs, what opportunities are here, and then the game plan for getting there.”

The plan might be easier to pull together than the funding. The state budget is tight, and last October it was announced that USM’s athletic department owes the university more than $1.2 million for deficits it ran in recent fiscal years, and the department predicted a shortfall of at least $1 million for 2012-13

It sounds like McGillis has a steep climb ahead of him, but perhaps he is just the guy for the job.

McGillis previously served as executive associate athletic director at South Florida. Before that, he was athletic director at Evansville. He has helped oversee major upgrades and the new construction of a long list of athletic facilities and venues.

In 2009, he helped spearhead a $69-million renovation of South Florida’s Athletics District that included the construction of six new venues.

Let’s hope he can work similar magic in the Hub City. Getting Southern Miss back to winning ways transcends records and titles. It is vastly important to the greater Hattiesburg area’s businesses. As USM’s football has tumbled, so has the number of fans showing up with their wallets and looking to spend to have a good time.

So, everyone should be pulling for McGillis. The Golden Eagles have to soar again — the investment is a must. Losing games is one thing; losing business is another.

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