Ole Miss Legend Billy Brewer Passes Away

Rebel great played for Johnny Vaught and later served 11 years as head coach

Chucky Mullins (38) and head coach Billy Brewer prepare to lead the Rebels onto the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss file photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Homer E. “Billy” Brewer, 83, who played on three of Johnny Vaught’s greatest teams at the University of Mississippi and then returned years later to become the second-winningest head football coach in school history, passed away late Saturday afternoon (May 12) at Tresevant Manor in Memphis, Tennessee, following a brief illness.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday (May 19) at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. A private family service will be held Sunday (May 20) at Gunter-Peel Funeral Home in Columbus. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Palmer Home in Columbus, Oxford-University United Methodist Church or the M-Club Scholarship fund at the University of Mississippi.

In addition to his parents, Brewer was preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Kay Gunter Brewer, and brothers Robert “Bobby” Brewer and Richard “Red” Brewer. He is survived by his sons Brett (Susan) of Memphis, Tennessee and Gunter (Rhonda) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and grandchildren Keaton (Kate), Blaine (Tara), Lauren, Bailey and Brogan.

“As a coach and player, Billy Brewer shared a love for Ole Miss that was unparalleled,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said. “He was greatly admired by his players and his teammates and will forever be engrained in the history of Rebel football. Our prayers go out to the Brewer family and all of Rebel Nation during this time.”

During his 11 years at the helm of the UM football program, Brewer’s 67 total victories placed him second behind Vaught. His 11 seasons as head coach also represented the second-longest tenure coaching Ole Miss football, more years than anyone with the exception of Vaught, who had 190 victories during his 24-plus campaigns as leader of the Rebels.

When compared to the Vaught era (1947-70; 1973), Brewer’s coaching career at Ole Miss may not seem long. However, a closer look reveals an interesting fact: In his tenure at Ole Miss, which began before the 1983 season, Brewer became the dean of Southeastern Conference coaches, a position he inherited in 1993 when Auburn’s Pat Dye retired and Tennessee’s Johnny Majors left the Vols for Pittsburgh.

When Brewer was selected to succeed Steve Sloan in December 1982, he did so with high hopes of turning around a football program that had fallen from the nation’s elite. Ole Miss had not been to a bowl game in 12 years, was nowhere to be found in the national polls and coming off five straight losing seasons.

Brewer promised to once again make Ole Miss competitive, and time would tell that he remained true to his word. He took the Rebels and their fans bowling five times, becoming the only Ole Miss head coach to guide five of his first 10 teams to a bowl game.

During his playing days, Brewer was on teams that went 3-0 against in-state rival Mississippi State. That success continued during his stretch as head coach, as the Rebels were 8-3 against the Bulldogs, including seven wins in his first eight seasons.

Under Brewer’s direction, Ole Miss won for the first time ever at Alabama, won at LSU for the first time since 1968, gained its first victory over Georgia since 1976 and earned its first victory over Arkansas in Little Rock since 1960. Although there were peaks and valleys during the Brewer era, the Rebels returned to being nationally ranked multiple times by the various polls.

In his 11 seasons at his alma mater, Brewer compiled a 67-56-3 record and was selected Southeastern Conference “Coach of the Year” three times: in 1983 by the Associated Press, in 1986 by United Press International and in 1990 by the Birmingham News and Nashville Banner.

Brewer’s success as a player and coach brought other individual honors as he was inducted into the Independence Bowl Hall of Honor in 2000 and the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He also will be inducted posthumously into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on July 28.

Brewer’s first Ole Miss team was the surprise of the Southeastern Conference in 1983. After going 7-4 overall and finishing 4-2 in league play, including a dramatic 24-23 win over Mississippi State, the Rebels then lost to Air Force, 9-3, in the Independence Bowl. It was the first postseason trip for the Rebels since the 1971 Peach Bowl when Billy Kinard’s team defeated Georgia Tech 41-18.

Following 4-6-1 finishes in 1984 and 1985, the Rebels entered the 1986 season ranked no higher than seventh in most preseason SEC polls, and one national publication even picked Ole Miss last. When the regular season ended with a 24-3 victory over Mississippi State, Brewer’s squad was 4-2 inside conference play and only one victory short of possibly representing the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.

The 1986 campaign, which included a 21-19 win over eventual SEC champ LSU in Baton Rouge, was capped with a 20-17 victory over Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl, giving the Rebels an 8-3-1 overall record.

Consecutive losing seasons followed the success of 1986 as the Rebels went 3-8 in 1987 and 5-6 in 1988 before rebounding in breathtaking style in 1989.

Success came hard during the 1989 campaign as Ole Miss produced several heart-stopping victories on their way to an 8-4 overall record and a 4-3 mark in the SEC. While the year was capped with an impressive 42-29 victory over Air Force in the Liberty Bowl, the season was bittersweet with the loss of defensive back Chucky Mullins, who suffered an injury in the Homecoming game with Vanderbilt that left him paralyzed.

Mullins died May 6, 1991 from complications from his injury, and Brewer gave the eulogy at the funeral service in the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.

Following the Mullins injury, it was Brewer who decided to honor Mullins each season by having a deserving player wear his uniform number 38. Chris Mitchell was the first recipient in 1990 when the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Ole Miss initiated the annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

A 9-3 record in 1990 helped the Rebels compile back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1970-71 and represented the most wins for an Ole Miss team since the 1971 squad went 9-2. At 5-2 inside the SEC, the Rebels tied Alabama for second place and rose to as high as 15th in the Associated Press poll before ending the season 21st after losing to Michigan in the Jan. 1, 1991 Gator Bowl.

Ole Miss slipped to 5-6 in 1991 as the Rebels lost their last five games. Three-point losses to both Vanderbilt and LSU late in the season spoiled any chances of another bowl trip and the Ole Miss offense struggled when quarterbacks Russ Shows and Tom Luke sustained injuries.

Brewer got his Rebels back on track in 1992. After being picked last in the SEC Western Division during preseason, Ole Miss completed the year with a 9-3 record, finishing second in the Western Division to national champion Alabama. A 13-0 shutout of Air Force in the Liberty Bowl was rewarded as most final polls had Ole Miss 16th and the New York Times rated the Rebels 10th.

The university celebrated its 100th anniversary of fielding a collegiate football team in 1993, and Ole Miss fans selected Brewer to the “Team of the Century” as a defensive back. However, a 5-6 finish was especially disappointing since it came during a season when the Rebel defense led the nation by allowing only 234.4 yards per game.

The Rebels got off to a 4-2 start and were nationally ranked at one point, but dropped four of their final five games as the offense had trouble putting points on the board. Probably the toughest setback of the year came against defending national champ Alabama, as the Tide slipped past the Rebs 19-14 on the Oxford campus.

When Brewer became head football coach in 1983, he was searching for a way to allow his team to experience the atmosphere and pageantry Rebel fans enjoyed in the Grove while tailgating on game day. Taking a different route two hours before kickoff of each home game, Brewer would walk with the team from Kinard Hall, the athletics dormitory, across campus to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

In 1985, Brewer started going the same route each Saturday as the team would enter the Grove on the east side of the Student Union building and then proceed down a sidewalk that runs through the Grove. That traditional team entry point took on an added significance in the fall of 1998 when a “Walk of Champions” arch was donated to the university by members of the 1962 football team, which is the only undefeated squad (10-0) in Ole Miss football history.

Ole Miss fans arrive early in the morning on game days to gain prime positions available on both sides of the sidewalk and then greet the players with loud cheers and the “Hotty Toddy” chant. Brewer’s vision in 1983, which became one of the most unique college football experiences in the South and nationwide, continues under Coach Luke.

As a youngster growing up in Columbus, Billy Brewer always had a desire to play at Ole Miss and even had visions of one day coaching his beloved Red and Blue.

His first goal became a reality when he signed to play football for Ole Miss following his senior season at S.D. Lee High School. He went on to earn three Rebel letters while playing on three of John Vaught‘s greatest teams, including the 1959 squad that earned “SEC Team of the Decade” honors after going 10-1 and winning the Southeastern Conference.

During Brewer’s three-year varsity career, the Rebels compiled a 28-4-1 record. After earning All-SEC defensive honors his senior year, he played in the College All-Star Game in Chicago and then played two years of professional football before entering the coaching profession.

He returned home to Columbus to begin his coaching career and became one of the state’s best prep coaches. His Lee High and Heritage Academy teams were 70-17-2 when he made the decision to move up in the coaching ranks.

Brewer’s first coaching experience on the collegiate level came at Southeastern Louisiana, where he served two years as an assistant coach before being named head coach of the Lions in 1974. In six years at the Southeastern helm, Brewer’s teams went 38-24-2.

Next came the challenge of rebuilding at Louisiana Tech. He led the Bulldogs to a 19-15-1 record in three years, including a 10-3 showing in 1982, when Tech won the Southland Conference crown and reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division 1-AA playoffs.

Overall, Brewer’s head coaching career record on a collegiate level was 124-95-6. Counting high school, he was 194-112-8 as a head football coach.

PERSONAL
Name: Homer Ervin “Billy” Brewer
Born: Oct. 8, 1934
Wife: The former Kay Gunter (deceased) of Columbus
Married: Dec. 20, 1959
Children: Brett and Gunter
Grandchildren: Keaton, Lauren, Blaine, Bailey Katherine and Brogan

EDUCATION
Lee High School, Columbus, graduated 1955
University of Mississippi, B.S. in Physical Education, 1961

ATHLETIC
Lee High School: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Track – 1951-55
University of Mississippi: Football (Quarterback, Defensive Back) – 1958-60
Washington Redskins (NFL) – 1961
Vancouver (B.C.) Lions (CFL) – 1962

HONORS
1955 – Mississippi High School All-Star Game
1959 – All-Southeastern Conference
1960 – College All-Star Game
1993 – Ole Miss Team of the Century
2000 – Independence Bowl Hall of Honor
2011 – Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame
2018 – Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

MILITARY
Army National Guard, six years

COLLEGIATE COACHING HONORS
1974 – NAIA District 30 Co-Coach of the Year (Southeastern Louisiana)
1982 – Southland Conference Coach of the Year (Louisiana Tech)
1982 – Kodak District 7 Coach of the Year (Louisiana Tech)
1983 – Associated Press Southeastern Conference Co-Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)
1986 – United Press International Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)
1990 – Birmingham News Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)
1990 – Nashville Banner Southeastern Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)
1990 – Kodak Region 2 Coach of the Year (Ole Miss)

Persistence Leads to Perseverance

Mary Knight, a friend and colleague, has been a tremendous support in my journey. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” – B.F. Skinner

The inaugural Red and Blue Celebration for graduating faculty and staff is a testament to those who have worked hard to overcome obstacles of balancing life, work and family, all while bettering themselves through education.

For some of us, such as myself, it was a journey filled with many setbacks.

In 2013, I was ready to graduate. I began looking at graduate programs, took the GRE and even joined the Ole Miss Alumni Association. I even have a brick with my name on it in the circle under the Class of 2013. That’s how ready I was to graduate. Then, as it tends to do so, life happened. I ended up lacking one single class and, due to several setbacks, was not able to finish.

Four years would pass before I would finally have a chance to complete my degree.

On Wednesday (May 9), I participated in the inaugural Red and Blue Celebration. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

During my undergraduate years, I was not always the best student. Life tended to get to me, and attempting to balance working 35 hours or more while taking 15 hours of classes was trying on top of other events occurring in my personal life.

I admit I did get lost along the way, briefly, but with time, I grew to understand and learn how to cope with whatever life threw my way. I learned how to better manage my time and how to better cope with circumstances, whatever they maybe.

If college teaches us anything, it is how to adapt to whatever life may have in store. Actually, it teaches us not only to adapt, but never to give up.

I went through every administrative process imaginable during those five years, hoping to finally graduate. Even after the many unsuccessful attempts to finish, I rarely took no for an answer. With the help of an unbelievably gracious friend, I was finally able to take my last class this past fall.

I was so nervous to get back into class after being out for nearly five years and now working a full time job at the university. I knew with the time away, I had been able to reflect on those mistakes and use them as lessons to drive positive change in my life. I was prepared to prove, not only to myself, but everyone, that I am capable.

I am extremely proud to say that in December 2017, I passed my last class with an A to complete my bachelor’s degree in psychology. The lesson here: Being patient and persistent pays off.

I immediately applied for a graduate program, only to be rejected. I made connections and voiced how I knew I would succeed in the program and that my undergraduate time is not a reflection of what I can accomplish. I then reapplied and will be beginning my master’s degree this summer.

Without the support of family, like mine here, many faculty and staff members would not have been able to achieve the success celebrated during the Red and Blue Celebration. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

You cannot simply take rejection as the end-all, be-all. I hold strong to the idea that if one keeps pushing and striving, you can succeed.

It will not always go according to plan, but being able to quickly and effectively adapt to what life has to offer is a valuable lesson all its own. If you’re willing to accept help and know that you are never alone in your journey, there is a tremendous support system here at the university, and at home with family and with friends.

I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate with others in such an outstanding celebration of our hard work. It was the perfect closing to this chapter in my life. It’s also the beginning of bigger and better things.

The one thing my family, friends and colleagues have learned from my experience is to believe in yourself, keep pushing and always be patient and persistent.

 

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Celebrating Great UM Women

Inspiring stories reflect observance of Women's History Month

In conclusion of Women’s History Month, celebrate with accomplishments made by great UM women. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

In celebration of Women’s History Month, this selection of stories highlights achievements by great UM women. These are just  few of the wonderful stories about faculty, staff, students and alumni:

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Students to Give Back to L-O-U Community through the Big Event

Annual day of service expected to draw nearly 2,000 participants

UM students work on landscaping as part of The Big Event, a day students dedicate to community service and building relationships with the citizens of Oxford. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Hundreds of University of Mississippi students are expected for this year’s installment of The Big Event, the largest day of community service in the state of Mississippi, to say “thank you” to the Oxford and Lafayette County communities.

Set for March 25, The Big Event begins at 8 a.m. at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Students will volunteer for various projects throughout the community, including painting homes, organizing garages, helping with yard work and cleaning up highways.

“The Big Event is about service and gratitude to the community for everything they do for us,” said Alex Martin, a senior from Madison who is one of this year’s co-directors of the initiative. “I think this is a really cool way to let students meet the community. I love getting to hear them talk about who they met and what they did.”

The Big Event began in 2011 with about 1,000 students volunteering. Martin, who is majoring in mathematics and international studies with minors in Arabic and economics, and co-director Miller Richmond began planning this year’s event soon after last year’s event in the hopes to make it the most successful yet.

Some 1,700 students have registered for this year’s day of service, and organizers hope to reach at least 2,000 volunteers.

Martin and Richmond look forward to seeing the impact not only upon the community, but also their fellow students. They said they hope the Big Event will lead to students continuing to volunteer their time to other projects in the future.

“We always work closely with the city, county, local nonprofits and residents,” said Richmond, a senior from Madison who is majoring in international studies with minors in Arabic and chemistry. “A lot of students get that first taste of community service and then they realize they want to come back again.”

Ole Miss students interested in volunteering for the event should sign up through the myOleMiss portal. Once signed in, they should select the “Get Involved” tab, click on “Big Event Volunteer Registration” and complete the form. The deadline to register is Friday (March 3), but walk-ins are welcome on the day of the event.

Volunteers get breakfast and a free T-shirt before heading out to work on a variety of projects.

Community members interested in registering a project should visit http://www.bigevent.olemiss.edu and click “Register Projects” to fill out the form. The deadline is March 3.

Major corporate sponsors for The Big Event include The Hub, C Spire and Heritage Properties. Many other businesses and campus organizations have contributed to the effort, organizers said.

For more information on the Big Event, visit http://www.bigevent.olemiss.edu. To view a video from the 2016 Big Event, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMd6sITeV7Q.

Blog: ‘Why I move more’

Andrea Jekabsons holds up a photo of her parents, who inspired her to ‘move more.’ Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Those who know me or meet me sometimes refer to me as the “RebelWell Lady.” The “HR Lady” is a close second. So, not being an exercise or nutrition professional, how did “RebelWell Lady” come to be?

A few weeks after relocating to Oxford, my father passed away. My father was a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who went on to work in Human Resources (Personnel in those days) for Xerox and Ford. Then, finally hitting his harmonic gait, he recruited minority engineering students for NASA programs.

Dad described himself as “a peaceable man,” and everyone he met was a friend. He appreciated a hotdog, root beer float and my mother’s cooking. Long gone were his collegiate baseball seasons and military exercise drills. The lack of exercise and a love of food led to obesity and diabetes, the demise of many Americans. My mother, who spent most of her years raising nine children, found herself caring for my father.

After his death, I walked and I walked often. I had always enjoyed walking, but these were “grief” walks, not power walks.

In 2009, a colleague asked me to join her to meet with a personal trainer. So sure, this mom of two, with a full-time job, who had gained a little weight, agreed to go. That night proved to be my rock bottom. The sit-ups were challenging. The push-ups (on my knees) were nearly impossible. And who ever thought that high knee runs were a good idea for cardio never considered what might possibly jiggle on a 41-year-old. Sore and stiff the next morning, I thought of my parents (my mom was also suffering from diabetes), and I decided that I didn’t want to wake up at 45, 50, 55 feeling old, sick and tired. I didn’t want that for my children. The journey began.

My schedule didn’t allow for me to continue working out with that personal trainer, and the fitness classes were mostly attended by young flexi-bendy students. I began jogging and riding my stationary bike again. I ate out less. I also tried different home workout DVDs and programs that included Oxford Adventure Boot Camp.

Jekabsons and colleague Jessica Hughes jog on the South Campus Rail Trail. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

As the story goes, I began to feel better. I have more energy, feel happier, and think more creatively and clearly with much more confidence. I recently shared with a colleague that since I began practicing energy management, the world seems brighter, problems seem smaller, and my patience continues to grow.

I recognized how my improved wellness was benefiting my work and have been fortunate enough, with the support of our university leaders, to be in a position to enhance our work-site wellness programs and policies. The benefits of a healthy workforce include increased productivity and lower absenteeism. Healthier employees also tend to be happier – and their co-workers appreciate that! Our RebelWell campus partners offer support, infrastructure, enthusiasm and programming.

Why I move more? I move because of my family history. I move more for my family. And along the way, I have found my harmonic gait.

More on RebelWell: http://rebelwell.olemiss.edu/

More on harmonic gait: https://www.tugboatinstitute.com/video-finding-your-teams-harmonic-gait/

Recommended Reads:

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Andrea M. Jekabsons is associate director of Human Resources at the University of Mississippi.

Employee Self-Service helps staff take care of business online

Photo by Nathan Latil/University Communications

Employee Self-Service, or ESS, allows you to view and change some of your employee information via myOleMiss.

From ESS you may:

  • Update your payroll direct deposit information
  • Update your employee address and communication preferences
  • View your semimonthly pay stubs
  • Elect to receive and view your Form W-2 online
  • Record time worked and leave taken
  • View current benefit selections via the Benefits Confirmation Statement

Addresses & Communication Preferences

You may use the Employee Self-Service application and Addresses & Communication Preferences to update your home address, office address and emergency contact information. Additionally, you can provide your cell phone information, which allows you to receive emergency text message notifications from the university. You may also set your preferences to receive optional text messages or emails about campus news and events.

To access Employee Self-Service, log in to myOleMiss =>  choose the Employee tab => Self Service => then, select Address/Communication Preferences from the “Detailed Navigation” menu located on the left.

Record Time

Eligible employees are required to use the Employee Self‐Service interface in myOleMiss to record time worked and leave taken for the payroll pay period. In general, permanent employees who do not record their time against Facilities Management or Telecommunications work orders are required to log into the myOleMiss portal to record their time. Employees who currently use approved time clock systems, student employees and Rebel Reserve employees may not use the online time sheet and should continue to use Form UM4/HR12.

Open Enrollment

Since October 2011, Employee Self-Service has been available for employees to make changes to their benefit plans during the entire month of October.

“The university is excited about using SAP’s Employee Self-Service module for the implementation of Online Open Enrollment,” said Pamela Johnson, assistant director of benefits.

Administratively, the online system streamlined the enrollment process, enabled the university to extend the Open Enrollment period and hold employees accountable for benefit elections. The system is easy to navigate and meets the university’s Open Enrollment needs.

All employees are encouraged to become familiar with the myOleMiss portal and enjoy the benefit and ease of using the features.

 

411 on supplemental retirement programs

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Retirement is the goal of all employees. Whether this event will happen soon or several years down the road, financial stability is a common concern. 

Questions you may be asking yourself are will I be able to retire on my scheduled date, have enough money to support the retirement lifestyle I want, or have sufficient funds to last throughout retirement?

If these thoughts have crossed your mind and you are looking for opportunities to increase future assets, consider taking advantage of the university’s supplemental retirement programs.

The university offers two voluntary, supplemental retirement programs, 403(b) and Deferred Compensation. Participation is available to all employees (faculty and staff), student workers and re-employed retirees. If you receive compensation via the university payroll system, then you may participate. These individual retirement accounts are funded by employee contribution only. The university does not match contributions. The amount you contribute is at your discretion.

Both programs offer a diversified set of investment options to include but not limited to global/international, small cap, large cap and bonds. For calendar year 2017, the contribution limit is $18,000. Employees age 50 or older may contribute an additional $6,000, which increases their contribution limit to $24,000.

With the 403(b) program, there are three authorized providers with which you may invest (TIAA, Voya and VALIC). To participate is a two-step process. First, you must select the provider(s) in which you will invest and establish an investment account. Second, you must complete and submit to 108 Howry Hall a Salary Reduction Agreement, or SRA, to set up payroll deduction. Contributions may be pre- and/or post-tax. Please ensure you provide the pay period contribution amount in the appropriate box designating pre-tax versus post-tax on the SRA.

Financial consultants from TIAA, Voya and VALIC are available to discuss this program and assist in setting up an investment account, selecting investment options and completing the SRA. The SRA and contact information for financial consultants can be accessed at http://www.olemiss.edu/hr/retirement.html.

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Deferred Compensation is administered by the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi with investment accounts managed by Empower Retirement. 

To participate, complete the Participant Enrollment Form, and fax or mail it to Empower Retirement. The form is available at https://mdcplan.gwrs.com/login.do via the Resource Center tab. This step must occur one month in advance of when the payroll contributions will begin. Deferred Compensation is a pre-tax contribution.

Questions about these programs should be directed to Pamela Johnson, assistant director of benefits, at pkjohnso@olemiss.edu or 662-915-5432.

Further reading: https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/top10ways.pdf