Schafer Leaves Ole Miss

John Shafer resigned as Mississippi athletic director Friday after guiding the program through one of its most successful and prosperous periods. Shafer, 55, said he informed Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat about his decision earlier this week. Shafer told the athletic staff during a meeting Friday. Khayat, who attended the staff meeting, said an immediate search will begin for a replacement and expressed a desire to fill the position by July 1. Shafer said he and his wife, Dianne, would like to pursue job opportunities closer to their families. He is native of Virginia. ``I want to thank Dr. Khayat for the wonderful opportunity he has afforded us to be a part of the Ole Miss family,'' Shafer said at the staff meeting. ``I also want to thank all the staff, students, alumni and supporters who have welcomed us into this family. We have enjoyed our time in Oxford tremendously.'' Shafer was hired in June 1998 to replace Pete Boone. During Shafer's tenure the school's three high-profile programs _ football, men's basketball and baseball _ have all thrived under coaches he hired. He hired football coach David Cutcliffe to replace Tommy Tuberville after the 1998 season. Last season was the first since '98 that the Rebels did not play in a bowl game, though they were 7-4. ``I appreciate the opportunity and support that John Shafer has given me at Ole Miss,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We all are grateful for his leadership and contributions to our lives personally and professionally.'' Shafer hired basketball coach Rod Barnes in 1998 to replace Rob Evans. Barnes has led the Rebels to the NCAA tournament in three of his four seasons. ``John's leadership of the Ole Miss athletic department has been tremendous, and that is evident in the growth of the department and the success the University's sports programs have had over the past four years,'' Barnes said. In 2000, Shafer hired baseball coach Mike Bianco, who guided the Rebels into postseason play last year and is on his way to repeating the feat this year. ``I was very shocked and very disappointed,'' Bianco said. ``

Mr. Shafer was the one that hired me and he has been very supportive of the program and myself over the past year and a half.'' Shafer also oversaw the expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. ``First and foremost, the university is grateful to John Shafer for his dedicated leadership for the Department of Athletics,'' Chancellor Khayat said. ``We are a better Department of Athletics now than when he came here.'' A spokesman for the athletic department said Shafer left campus after the meeting and was planning to spend the day with his wife. He came to Ole Miss from Georgia, where he worked as an associate and assistant AD for 16 years. Before going to Georgia, Shafer served one year as assistant AD under then-Vanderbilt athletic director Roy Kramer, who recently resigned as commissioner the Southeastern Conference. Shafer, an all-SEC shortstop at Auburn in 1969, played professionally in the Kansas City Royals organization from 1969-71 before coaching high school baseball for three years. He returned to his alma mater in 1976, where he served as assistant baseball coach and assistant ticket manager until 1979, and then worked as assistant business manager for ticket sales and administrative assistant to Auburn football coach Doug Barfield until 1980.