HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) _ The University of Southern Mississippi will return a familiar face as its new athletic director.
In a letter to faculty and staff Thursday afternoon, USM President Rodney Bennett announced that Jeremy McClain, who has spent the past four as director of athletics at Troy University, will be returning to Hattiesburg.
Pending state College Board approval, McClain will assume his new duties at USM no later than July 1, Bennett said in the letter.
McClain, a Houlka native and Delta State University graduate, had spent three years in Hattiesburg as a deputy associate director of athletics.
“My family and I are thrilled to be coming home to Southern Miss," McClain said in a statement. "We all have great memories associated with Hattiesburg and the great people of the Pine Belt.
"I want to thank Dr. Bennett for the opportunity to lead the athletic department and in turn make a difference for this institution. I look forward to hitting the ground running soon and getting to work helping our student-athletes, coaches and staff take this program to new heights.”
McClain, 42, will be officially introduced as USM athletic director at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at USM’s Trent Lott National Center.
McClain will fill the vacancy created when Jon Gilbert left USM after less than two years to become athletic director at East Carolina University.
Since then, the department has been headed by Jeff Mitchell as interim director of athletics and Brian Morrison as interim deputy director of athletics.
“I also want to express my sincere appreciation for the hard work and leadership of Jeff Mitchell and Brian Morrison,” Bennett wrote in his letter. “They have demonstrated a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the (u)niversity and to the accomplishments of our student-athletes.”
McClain started his administrative career in athletics at his alma mater, including five years as the Statesmen’s athletic director.
He left DSU in October 2012, to become deputy associate athletic director for external affairs at USM, and served for a brief period as the department’s interim athletic director during a search that resulted in the hiring of Bill McGillis.
McClain was not a candidate for the USM position at that time.
McClain’s hiring at Troy was announced in August 2015, where he received a base salary of $210,000.
In Thursday’s letter, Bennett said he held seven “listening sessions” in a tour of USM alumni strongholds in the southeastern United States, and had compiled characteristics that he wanted the next athletic director to display.
Among those qualifications: ensuring the success of student-athletes, on the field and in the classroom; familiarity with USM, understanding higher education in Mississippi, senior-level administrative experience; and a “tenure that would be of a length that leaves a lasting and positive effect on Southern Miss athletics.”
Bennett said they havethat person in McClain.
“Jeremy McClain is uniquely qualified to lead our (d)epartment of (a)thletics to the successes we all envision,” Bennett wrote. “We know Jeremy. Jeremy knows us. Jeremy McClain is a “Southern Miss guy,” who shares the values and ambitions of the University of Southern Mississippi.”