Arianne Hartono Aces Academics and Athletics

After winning the NCAA singles tennis championship, the Ole Miss graduate is going pro

Arianne Hartono is the ultimate student-athlete, having graduated summa cum laude from Ole Miss this May and won this year’s NCAA women’s singles tennis championship. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi student-athlete Arianne Hartono has faced such challenges as recuperating from a broken wrist her freshman year and missing as many as three out of five days of classes during the weeks when she had to travel to away matches.

Considering such challenges, Hartono’s accomplishments are all the more impressive – excelling equally in athletics and academics, she won this year’s NCAA women’s singles tennis championship and graduated summa cum laude in May with a major in psychology and minor in business administration.

She is the first women’s tennis player in the Ole Miss program to win the NCAA singles championship (Devin Britton won it in men’s tennis in 2009) and is also the first student-athlete in any sport at Ole Miss to be named a Honda Sports Award winner and the second player in program history to be named to the 2018 ITA Collegiate All-Star Team.

Hartono is philosophical about her success and quite willing to share the glory.

“I think it’s the process of it all,” said Hartono, a native of Meppel, Netherlands. “Obviously, you can’t become a national champion from one day to the other. There’s so much work that went into it.

“I believe that everything happened for a reason, even that injury I had my freshman year. That was part of the road I had to go on to, to be where I am right now. So I think all the work, all the effort, not just from me but everyone else that’s worked with me, worked with the team, has led up to this.”

Everyone else includes professors, administrators, coaches, family, teammates, and tutors and counselors/advisers at the FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Success Center.

“We have a wide range of services available to student-athletes for continued success,” said Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director for student-athlete development.

Those services include scheduling of tutorial support for upper-level courses, assisting with four-year graduation plans, monitoring NCAA eligibility and assisting with busy spring travel schedules.

Hartono is a special student-athlete and a credit to Ole Miss, Cowherd said.

“Zvonimir Babic (a player on the men’s tennis team) tweeted that she is an inspiration to all student-athletes across the nation. And she should be,” Cowherd said. “Her demeanor, friendship to her teammates, her grace in which she carries herself, humble but confident nature, her wonderful spirit are all testaments to how her parents raised her … and she can play tennis, too.”

Hartono’s drive to excel comes partly from a sense of responsibility.

“Every year, we come together as a team, and we sit down and set up goals for ourselves,” she said. “… I’m just grateful for everything that’s been given to me, and I want to make the most of it. I think especially this year, knowing it was the last opportunity to represent Ole Miss for one more season, I’m not playing for myself but for this greater entity, so to speak. It just gives you more motivation to push harder.

“Our coaches and advisers, they all tell us that we student-athletes, we’re all leaders, so we have to act like them. We are held accountable for everything that we do. Keeping that in mind, we try to show the best of ourselves.”

As for her classes, Hartono took a no-nonsense approach.

“I just sit down and do the work that needs to be done. At the beginning of the semester, the teachers tell you what the semester is going to look like, and I think that’s like, just listen to the teacher! Just listen to the teacher, and basically you’ll do well.”

Hartono said time management was the greatest challenge in tackling her classes, because she had to miss so many classes due to her tennis schedule that included not only matches but also two hours of practice and one hour of fitness or strength and conditioning each day.

She said she was lucky to have taken classes taught by supportive professors and named three professors in particular as her favorites: Matthew Reysen, associate professor of psychology; Kate Kellum, associate director of institutional effectiveness and assistant professor of psychology; and Scott A. Gustafson, director of the UM Psychological Services Center.

“I’d be falling behind, especially in the spring when we were in season; we’d be traveling so much,” Hartono said. “I’d meet up with Dr. Reysen all the time. He was always willing to help me out. … I liked Dr. Kate’s class (Applied Behavior Analysis) because it was so interactive. … Definitely, one of my other favorite teachers is Dr. G.”

And the feeling is mutual.

“Arianne was one of those students that only come along every five to 10 years in a professor’s career,” said Gustafson, who taught Hartono in two advanced psychology classes. “She clearly had prepared for her classes and asked questions based on her readings that would be more expected in an advanced graduate seminar than an undergraduate lecture hall.

“On a personal level, Arianne is one of those students that made me, as a professor, feel like my job was rewarding. Rather than being a passive part of the crowd, her interest and competency and hard work made me look forward to the classes she was in, because I felt like I was making a difference.”

Reysen agreed that Hartono is bright, personable and a pleasure to have in his Cognitive Psychology class.

“Arianne was an outstanding student who was always able to maintain a high level of academic excellence despite the numerous obligations that came with being a student-athlete,” he said.

Hartono did a good job of using the skills she learned in class to make the atmosphere around her more fun, Kellum added.

“Her ability to take what she was learning in class out into the world was really good,” she said.

Classes, studying and tennis took up most of Hartono’s time, but she did manage to be on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, composed of two or three representatives from each team on the Ole Miss campus.

“Our job was basically to keep up with NCAA rules, with regulations, whatnot, but also about student-athlete development, any areas that we could improve. … Another thing we were concerned with was community service. That’s one of the things I really enjoy doing because I believe it’s so important to give back for everything that we’ve been given here.”

Because she completed a lot of her classes and requirements in her freshman and sophomore years, Hartono had time in her last semester to do something else she truly loves.

“I love to bake, and especially knowing that I have a team of seven hungry athletes, it’s easy to get rid of stuff,” Hartono said. “Before a trip, I’d hop on the bus and have brownies, or Oreo balls and all this other stuff. They appreciate it, and it just makes me happy, and it’s relaxing at the same time.”

Path to the Win

Arianne Hartono

Hartono remembers a pivotal conversation she had when she was about 6 years old. She and her mom had stopped to pick up her 9-year-old brother, Adriaan, who was finishing his tennis practice, and she helped pick up the tennis balls.

“So, what do you do? What are you into?” her brother’s coach asked her.

“Well, I’m a ballet dancer,” answered Hartono, having just left a ballet lesson.

“Ballet? That’s nothing. Why don’t you try to play tennis?” the coach said.

And so she did, with support from her parents, Lieke and Okki Hartono, who had moved from Indonesia to the Netherlands in the 1990s. (Hartono speaks fluent Indonesian, Dutch and English, and took Chinese while at Ole Miss, reaching the conversational level. She also took French and German in high school.)

“(My parents) always told me, ‘As long as you love to play, we’ll support you in whatever you want to do,'” Hartono said. “With all the successes, they came to realize, ‘Oh, she’s actually good. She could be successful at it.'”

A love for tennis runs in Hartono’s family. Her uncle Deddy Tedjamukti and aunt Lukky Tedjamukti from Indonesia played professional tennis, and cousin Nadia Ravita played for the University of Kentucky women’s tennis team.

Hartono said her brother still enjoys tennis and is very supportive of her, though she has surpassed him in skill.

“I mean, he’s good, but he chose to focus more on his education instead, so he wasn’t practicing as intensely as I was. He would practice like twice a week, whereas I would practice four or five times a week. We were basically known as the Hartono tennis players around the region where we played. … I remember when I was younger, I tried so hard because I wanted to beat him so badly. But he’s a good sport, he can handle it,” she laughed.

Until college, Hartono trained at small clubs rather than tennis academies. She said she struggled to find sparring partners until she came to Ole Miss, where she suddenly had eight other women who were as good, if not better than her.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for them,” Hartono said. “When you spend so much time with a group like them, they become family.”

Mark Beyers, Ole Miss women’s tennis head coach, who is also from the Netherlands, recruited her, Hartono said.

“He watched me play, and one of his former players – she was from the same hometown as I was, and so we kind of got in touch that way. That’s one of the main reasons I chose Ole Miss. I just loved the campus. I loved the team, just the entire atmosphere.”

Trying to win tennis matches in the NCAA, where all players are top-notch, is pressure-filled, but Hartono remembers a key moment that helped her de-stress.

“Grant Roberts, our assistant coach, was on my court most of the time whenever I was playing. … In times of trouble, so to speak, we’d sit down on the break, and he’d come and we’d talk about strategies or whatever, but for me it was important to keep things simple. I tend to overthink or make things overcomplicated for myself, and that’s not necessary.

“In the finals, (Grant) would ask me, ‘So, what is our one word this tournament?’

“Fun” is the word that popped up.

“Because at the end of the day, I’ll play my best tennis when I’m having fun, when I’m enjoying the challenge. And so I think that’s the most important thing that happened, not winning the national championship. Of course, that’s great. I’m not complaining,” she laughed. “But I think that was the result of me enjoying what I was doing.

“That’s a great achievement for myself. I was able to put winning and the result aside, for me to know I was doing what I love. In anything anyone does, I think that’s just so important because, otherwise, why are you doing it? And to know that I can succeed at that is mind-blowing, unbelievable and amazing.”

Arianne Hartono is the first Honda Sports Award winner in Ole Miss history. With a record of 37-6 this season, she finished the year winning 17 straight matches. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

What’s Next?

Hartono is going pro. After graduation, she went back to the Netherlands for a short while to spend time with her family and enjoy her mom’s cooking. She was scheduled to play her first professional match in Portugal and one in Indonesia, where she also planned to visit family.

She said as long as she loves to play, she’ll keep at it.

“If not, then I’ll find something else to do. That’s why I have a college degree,” she laughed.

She also plans to return to Ole Miss in the fall to visit with the tennis team and friends.

“I can never say goodbye to Ole Miss. We (she and her teammates) always tell each other, ‘Once a Rebel, always a Rebel.’ I truly believe that.”

Whatever successes and challenges lie ahead for Hartono, she can always look back at her college days and feel joy.

“At the end of the day, it’s not just about winning or losing,” she said. “It’s not just about holding that trophy. I got to spend four years of my life doing what I love.”

UM Earns Highest Graduation Success Rate in School History

Four Rebel teams post perfect scores

Commencement in the Pavilion at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Ole Miss recorded its highest GSR in school history at 81 percent. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Coming on the heels of a successful weekend on the football field and basketball courts, the University of Mississippi has received more great news, this time on the academic side of things. In the most recent NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report released Tuesday, Ole Miss student-athletes recorded the highest GSR in school history at 81 percent.

Additionally, UM is graduating student-athletes at a rate nearly 2 percent higher than the general student body for the first time since 2009.  This is just one of many accomplishments Ole Miss student-athletes have had in the last year. In the spring, they posted a collective 3.0 GPA for the first time.

Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, is pleased with the progress Ole Miss student-athletes are making in the classroom.  

“I am extremely proud of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff for reaching this new academic threshold,” Bjork said.  “Our biggest responsibility in college athletics is teaching, educating and providing leadership opportunities for our students who compete in athletics. Our intentional approach to enhance our academic performance is now paying off with the best graduation success rate on record.

“Earning a college degree is the ultimate measure of success in higher education and we are extremely proud of all of our Ole Miss Rebels who have received their degree and allowed our university to enrich our academic profile.  While we have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, our work in this area is never complete, and we will continue to strive for academic excellence for our entire athletics program. We must continue to fulfill our purpose by providing every opportunity for our student-athletes to reach their full potential. ”

Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director for student-athlete development, is equally impressed by the dedication of the student-athletes, coaches and FedEx Student Athlete Success Center staff to achieve this milestone.

“It has taken a lot of dedication from our students, staff and coaches to move closer to our target of 90 percent graduation success and to see Ross’ vision for our department coming true,” Cowherd said. “We take the utmost pride in the process and the way we do things with integrity and within our core values. 

“It’s very rewarding to see so many of our student-athletes graduating and having a plan for their lives after their collegiate days are done.  I’m thankful for this talented team who works tirelessly to reach our goal of being in or near the upper third of the SEC in federal and graduation success rates.”

The women’s basketball, women’s golf, volleyball and rifle teams each posted a perfect 100 percent GSR. This will be the eighth consecutive year the women’s golf team has posted a perfect GSR, while volleyball achieves the feat for the sixth straight year.  It’s the fourth year in a row with a perfect score for women’s basketball and the third for rifle.

In 10 years, Ole Miss’ graduation success rate has improved from 69 percent to its current 81 percent, and the Rebels are graduating 2 percent higher than the overall university population and the federal graduation rate.

Additionally, Ole Miss is making strides among its SEC counterparts, continuing to climb into the upper echelon of the SEC.  

For further academic accolades, follow @UMTrueRebel on Twitter.

Ole Miss and Hopscotch Launch New Mobile App

Technology offers new fan-engagement capabilities

athleticsappsOXFORD, Miss. — Just in time for the college football season, Ole Miss and Hopscotch, a mobile-technology leader for sports and live events, launched a new mobile app. The Ole Miss Athletics app is free and available for immediate download on the App Store and Google Play.

“The new Ole Miss Athletics app gives Rebel fans more than just a gameday app. It gives students, alumni and fans a 24/7/365 connection to the action, the student-athletes and the school they love,” said Michael Thompson, Ole Miss Senior Associate Athletics Director, Communications & Marketing. “Hopscotch has been awesome to work with, and their technology and service is best in class.”

With the new app, Rebel fans receive:

  • All-team access: The school’s app is a one-stop shop for all men’s and women’s varsity teams. Fans can select their favorite student-athletes and teams to personalize app content.
  • Scores: Fans can access live-game scoreboards, box scores and stats via an integration with Stats.com.
  • Schedules: Fans can buy tickets to upcoming home games on their mobile devices via a Spectra integration.
  • Fan Zone: Fans can listen live on game day via a TuneIn integration and join in on trivia, polls and contests via a Lodestone Social integration.
  • Breaking news: Fans get exclusive videos, articles and photos, plus social streams.

“When it comes to the intersection of fan engagement and technology, Ole Miss is a leader in college athletics,” said Laurence Sotsky, Hopscotch Founder and CEO. “It has been a privilege to bring their vision of a best-in-class mobile experience to life.”

Hopscotch also integrated its mobile platform with DoubleClick by Google for ad serving and SSB for data warehousing and business intelligence. This gives Ole Miss new capabilities to provide each fan a more personalized experience, based on geolocation, app preferences and app behaviors.

As the multimedia rights partner of Ole Miss Athletics, IMG helped to facilitate the relationship.

“We are excited to work together with Ole Miss to develop a great technology solution that will help Rebel fans engage with the school and its athletic programs,” said Stewart Marlborough, Senior Vice President, Head of Digital, IMG College. “Hopscotch offers fans unique content that improves the viewing and game day experiences and, in turn, helps brands connect more directly to the university’s core audience.”

Hopscotch (GoHopscotch.com) is a leader in mobile-platform technology that makes it easy for colleges, sports teams and event organizers to build scalable, affordable mobile apps. The Hopscotch platform combines a feature-rich content-management system with an open-API architecture, aggregating a variety of mobile technologies into a single fan-engagement destination. Hopscotch customers include Auburn, Ole Miss, University of Central Florida and more than 35 sports teams.

IMG is a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of sports media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions. In 2014, IMG was acquired by WME, a leading global entertainment agency.

Ole Miss’ Saunders Places Fifth in Olympic Shot Put in Rio

Rising Junior Tosses Big PR of 19.35m/63-6

Aug 12, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Raven Saunders (USA) competes in the women's shot put event at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 12, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Raven Saunders (USA) competes in the women’s shot put event at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO – Raven Saunders trained and competed all year to get to the Olympics, and her first appearance on the world’s biggest stage did not disappoint.

The Ole Miss rising junior used a personal-best heave of 19.35 meters (63-6) on her last throw of Friday night’s shot put final to earn fifth place. Her U.S. teammate Michelle Carter won gold also on her last attempt, an American record 20.63m/67-8.25. She edged out silver medalist Valerie Adams of New Zealand (20.42m), while Hungary’s Anita Marton (19.87m) won bronze and China’s Lijao Gong (19.39m) placed fourth.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Raven,” said her Ole Miss head coach and U.S. women’s track & field head coach Connie Price-Smith. “She competed like a champ. She was throwing with her role model, who is now an Olympic champion. I told Raven that she couldn’t ask for anything more, because to come in here as a baby and walk out with a PB and fifth place the first time through an Olympic Games is priceless.”

It was a somewhat awkward series for Saunders before her massive final throw that bettered her own collegiate record of 19.33m/63-5. She came out with a strong first attempt of 18.88m and then fouled four straight times. As she has done throughout her young career, she came through at the end when the pressure mounted the most.

Saunders, the youngest shot putter among the 36 women in Rio, made a big statement on her second qualifying attempt at the Olympics, heaving the shot 18.83 meters (61-9.5) to easily surpass the 18.40-meter line needed to automatically advance to the 12-woman final. The 20-year-old who just finished her sophomore year of college also reached the automatic qualifying line on her first attempt, a foot foul.

A track season that started all the way back in December finally came to a close for Saunders after some sensational sophomore achievements. She won the NCAA outdoor shot put title with a collegiate record of 19.33m/63-5, and then she captured silver at the U.S. Olympic Trials to punch her ticket to Rio. She also broke the all-time collegiate indoor shot put record with a mark of 19.23m/63-1.25 back in February.

Ole Miss volunteer assistant coach Gwen Berry also suited up for Team USA on the first day of track & field competition at Rio’s Olympic Stadium. The Southern Illinois alum finished 14th in the hammer throw qualifying to just miss the 12-woman final. Her mark of 69.90m/229-4 was four-tenths of a meter out of 12th.

Four former Rebel athletes will compete in Rio throughout the next week, including U.S. pole vault champion Sam Kendricks who will compete in the qualifying round Saturday. The others are Brittney Reese (USA, defending long jump champion), Ricky Robertson (USA, high jump) and Antwon Hicks (Nigeria, 110-meter hurdles).

Follow all the Ole Miss contingent in Rio at www.RebsInRio.com.

For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.

Sixth Annual Rebels’ Choice Awards on Tap for April 25

Student-athlete award show moves to The Pavilion at Ole Miss

The 2016 Rebels Choice Awards will be held in the Pavilion at Ole Miss on April 26.

Student-athletes gather on the red carpet before last year’s Rebels’ Choice Awards ceremony.

OXFORD, Miss. – Spring is in full bloom on the University of Mississippi campus and that means the sixth annual Rebels’ Choice Awards are just around the corner. The annual event, celebrating the accomplishments – both academic and athletic – of Ole Miss student-athletes, is slated for April 25 in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.

Richard Cross will serve as master of ceremonies and DJ Babi Mac will be a special guest.

The Rebels’ Choice Awards was established to celebrate Ole Miss student-athletes, but the entire Lafayette-Oxford-University community is invited to share this special evening. The awards show is free and open to the public.

“The Rebel Choice Awards is a unique opportunity to showcase the most important reason why we host intercollegiate athletics – our student-athletes,” Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “With all of the momentum around the entire university and our athletics program, hosting the 2016 Rebel Choice Awards in the brand new Pavilion at Ole Miss is a perfect way to showcase our academic, social and athletic excellence.

“April 25 is a can’t-miss event, and we hope all members of the Ole Miss family can attend.”

The red carpet, featuring Ole Miss student-athletes, will begin at 5:30 p.m. on the Pavilion plaza, with the awards show scheduled for 6:30 p.m. In addition, Steak ‘n Shake and Raising Cane’s will be open before the show.

The Rebels’ Choice Awards include 18 awards in which members of Ole Miss senior administration and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee select the winners. Awards include men’s and women’s sports winners in the following categories: Most Valuable Rebel, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Team of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Hotty Toddy Award.

“The Rebels’ Choice Awards sheds light on not only the athletic ability of many of our student-athletes, but it also shows the intellect and comradeship that is displayed amongst all athletes,” said Deterrian “DT” Shackelford, a former football defensive lineman and linebacker who won the Men’s Hotty Toddy Award in 2014 and the Men’s Community Outreach Award in 2012. “Truly an awesome and inspiring event!”

The honors also include the Bennie Abram Award, given annually in memory of former Ole Miss football walk-on Bennie Abram, who died Feb. 19, 2010. The award goes to a walk-on student-athlete who exemplifies Abram’s spirit.

The Rebels’ Choice Awards is built into the celebration of National Student-Athlete Day, which is celebrated each year in April.

Established in 1987, National Student-Athlete Day was created to celebrate outstanding student-athletes who have achieved excellence in academics and athletics while having made significant contributions to the community. The observance was established by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, and is co-sponsored by the NCAA.

The mission of Ole Miss’ student-athlete development program is to challenge student-athletes to be lifelong learners while pursuing continuous improvement academically, relationally, socially, personally and professionally during and beyond their athletic careers.

Student-Athlete Development is the hub for a wide range of Ole Miss athletics-sponsored programs designed to meet the needs of student-athletes and their families. It is divided into six areas: Student-Athlete Assistance Services, Career Development, Continuing Education, Community Outreach, Financial Education and Career Transition.

Visit Student-Athlete Development for more information on these programs.

Schedule Set for BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip

Fifth annual tour kicks off April 17 in Atlanta

Fifth-Annual Tour Kicks Off April 17 in Atlanta

Rebel Road Tour ’16 kicks off April 17 in Atlanta.

OXFORD, Miss. – The schedule is set and tickets on sale for the 2016 BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip, Ole Miss’ fifth annual tour of the state and surrounding areas. Visit http://www.rebelroadtrip.com for tickets and full details of each event.

Headlined by Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze and Athletics Director Ross Bjork, the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip (#RRT16) will feature 12 fan meetings across the region, beginning April 17 in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeff Vitter and other Rebel coaches will also speak at select stops.

This year’s caravan reaches four states and three new destinations: Mobile, Alabama, plus Ripley and Cleveland. Other stops on the April 17-22 schedule include Gulfport, Meridian, West Point, Corinth, Tupelo and Oxford. Meetings for Jackson and Memphis, Tennessee, will be held in July.

“For our leadership, the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip is an opportunity to personally thank Rebel Nation for their passionate support of our university,” said Kyle Campbell, Ole Miss assistant athletics director for media and public relations. “We have enjoyed tremendous crowds through the first four years of this event, and we look forward to continuing that excitement again this year.”

Besides the speakers, the meetings include autograph lines, photo booths, official merchandise, football posters, a video look at the university and information tables for the Athletics Foundation and the Alumni Association. Fans also can have photos taken with the Egg Bowl, Magnolia Bowl and Sugar Bowl trophies.

In its first four years, the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip has visited 32 different markets and more than 15,000 fans. The tour has touched seven states and cities such as Birmingham, Alabama; Dallas; Houston; Little Rock, Arkansas; Nashville, Tennessee; and New Orleans, among others.

2016 BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip

April 17, 5:30-7:15 p.m. (ET) – Atlanta (College Football Hall of Fame)

April 18, 7:30-9 a.m. – Mobile (Athelstan Club)

April 18, 5:30-7:15 p.m. – Gulfport (Gulfport Yacht Club)

April 19, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. – Meridian (Central United Methodist Church)

April 19, 5:30-7:15 p.m. – West Point (Ritz Theater and Conference Center)

April 20, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. – Ripley (First Baptist Church Life Center)

April 20, 5:30-7:15 p.m. – Corinth (Crossroads Arena)

April 21, 7:30-9 a.m. – Cleveland (Grammy Museum)

April 21, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. – Tupelo (BancorpSouth Conference Center)

April 22, 7:30-9 a.m. – Oxford (Oxford Conference Center)

July 18 – Memphis (TBA)

July 19 – Jackson (TBA)

Summer Research Program Focuses on Concussion Prevention for Athletes

Grant will get high school students involved in wiring Vaught-Hemingway to aid in impact awareness

ConcussionResearch

X2 impact sensors were used in Ole Miss spring football practice to document head impact during plays.

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – A University of Mississippi engineering professor is helping tackle the risks of head injuries in athletes engaged in contact sports, particularly football, and is inviting bright high school students to help with the project this summer.

Matthew Morrison, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, is using high-tech sensors to monitor the forces on athletes’ heads during practice and game conditions. He plans to work with rising high school juniors and seniors this summer to broaden the project, with a goal of aiding early detection and possible solutions to the critical problem of concussion injuries.

The inaugural “Heads in the Game” research program will take place June 28-July 28 on the Oxford campus. The program is made possible by a $200,000 grant from X2 Biosystems and is a partnership with the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the UM Center for Health and Sports Performance and the UM Summer College for High School Students.

“We wanted to find a way to demonstrate to Mississippi high school students the importance of math and science research and show them how the study of these disciplines helps people every day,” Morrison explained. “We know high school students are interested in sports, so we hope that our research using state-of-the-art technology with UM athletes will be a way to pique their interest.”

Students from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee are eligible to apply for 16 spots in the program. Besides participating in Morrison’s ongoing research concerning concussion management for contact-sport athletes, they will explore the fundamentals of biomedical science, computer science and engineering.

“Through this generous grant from X2 Biosystems, we hope not only to develop tools that can be used by Ole Miss athletics to continue improving the health and well-being of student athletes, but also to give area high school students a chance to improve their own skill set and resume,” Morrison said.

HEADS IN THE GAME from UM Division of Outreach on Vimeo.

Since 2010, X2 has pioneered the development of wearable impact-monitoring devices and assessment tools to enable more accurate diagnoses and comprehensive management of concussions in sports, military and industrial environments. The National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer have all adopted X2’s Integrated Concussion Evaluation, or ICE, solution for baseline neurocognitive testing, post-injury evaluation and return-to-play progress monitoring of their athletes.

“X2 was founded to improve concussion safety for the millions of young athletes who benefit from participating in sporting activities, but at the same time are exposed to all manner of physical impacts,” said John Ralston, X2’s CEO. “Helping Ole Miss engineering and athletic performance researchers to instill an appreciation of the underlying science and technology in high school students is a fantastic opportunity to combine athletics and academics in the development of creative young researchers.”

Morrison applied and received an educational research grant from the company in the fall of 2014. In conjunction with the Ole Miss Athletics Health and Sports Performance Center, he began using the X2 impact sensors and ICE software during spring football practice to document head impact during plays. During the Grove Bowl spring football scrimmage last month, players and trainers gathered enough information from immediate readings to implement in-game techniques to ward off potentially damaging hits to the head.

“We are excited about the potential data that will be collected and may ultimately help set standards in health care and athletic performance,” Shannon Singletary, UM senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance said. “This will be a cutting edge program that will benefit high school students as well as athletes of all ages as we explore causes and treatments for sports related issues such as concussions.”

The high school students selected for the “Heads in the Game” program this summer also will help set up and test equipment in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that athletics staff can use to monitor impact readings in real time from football players wearing X2 devices on the field.

Program participants will also be working closely with UM athletic trainers to develop a mobile device application that will track nutrition and water consumption of athletes to see if those results yield data that are useful for preventing head injuries during competitions.

“Our goal is to help the players play smarter, play safer and play longer,” Morrison said. “We think the implementation of this system will aid trainers in improving players’ form and nutrition to get them back on the field, all while improving their health and safety.”

During the program, students will present their findings during a weekly meeting of Ole Miss athletics coaches, trainers and staff.

“This unique program is definitely one of a kind and an amazing opportunity for high school students,” said Cass Dodgen, director of UM Summer College for High School Students.

Applications are available online for students who would like to be a part of the research program this summer. Each student accepted also gets a $2,000 scholarship to cover the cost of room, board and program activities for four weeks on campus.

“We are looking for motivated, hard-working students who have a love of sports and technology,” Dodgen said.

Students must have a score of 25 or higher on the ACT and at least a 3.0 high school GPA to be eligible. The application deadline is June 1. For more information, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/headsinthegame.

UM Extends Contract for Athletics Director

Deal will keep Ross Bjork at Ole Miss through 2019

2013 Signing Day Dinner.  Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

2013 Signing Day Dinner. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Athletics Director Ross Bjork have agreed in principle to a contract extension that will keep him at Ole Miss through 2019 at a base salary of $650,000 with $100,000 in academic and on-the-field performance incentives.

This extension, announced Friday by Chancellor Dan Jones, adds a year to Bjork’s contract, reaching the four-year maximum allowed by the state of Mississippi.

“I’m pleased to have a renewed commitment to Ole Miss from Ross,” Jones said. “All of us are grateful for his remarkable leadership, not only in athletics but far beyond.”

Since his arrival at UM in 2012, Bjork has provided outstanding leadership to Ole Miss athletics programs. Under his direction, Ole Miss has reached new heights in athletics support, with record private donations, an increase in athletics budget to $92 million for the 2015-16 season and record-breaking attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball.

“When I was hired in 2012, Sonya and I quickly realized what the Ole Miss family already knew: Ole Miss and Oxford make up a very special place, the perfect blend of academics, social life and athletics,” Bjork said. “Furthermore, we have been deeply moved by all of the support we have received from the Ole Miss family over the past three years and feel like we’ve been embraced with open arms every step of the way. Sonya and I are extremely humbled by the university’s confidence in athletics leadership by awarding a new contract and we look forward to hitting our stride as an athletics program.

“I am eternally grateful to Chancellor Dan Jones for not only bringing us to Ole Miss, but more importantly, his transformational leadership and unwavering support of athletics. Personally, Sonya and I will miss Dan and Lydia’s presence on campus, and we will always value their friendship. While a transition in leadership creates some uncertainty, there is no doubt the best days are yet to come for Mississippi’s flagship university. Together, we have a bright future as we continue to build on the success in academics, athletics and fundraising.”

Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have experienced immediate success in competition under Bjork’s direction. For three consecutive years, the Rebel football team has made a post-season bowl appearance, the Ole Miss baseball team made its first appearance in 42 years at the College World Series in Omaha last season and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship and has earned two NCAA Tournament appearances. Other teams to reach post-season play include soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, and women’s golf. Ole Miss pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claimed back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2013 and 2014.

In the past 12 months, UM was the only Division I university to place a team in the College World Series, a New Year’s Six bowl game and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

However, Bjork’s leadership reaches far beyond the playing field. He has placed a strong emphasis on academics, and the university’s student-athletes have responded, reaching a record average GPA of 2.96 in the fall of 2014. Moving forward, Bjork’s goal is to have student-athletes average a 3.0 GPA.

He also has been actively involved in other university activities, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; the Big Event, the university’s largest community service project; and RebelWell, a campaign to promote health and wellness among the Ole Miss community.

Bjork also has led efforts to expand and renovate athletics facilities with the Forward Together campaign. Construction of the new 9,500-seat Pavilion at Ole Miss is expected to be completed for SEC basketball play next season. The athletics department plans to break ground late this year on an expansion of the north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, adding 3,500 seats to stadium capacity. Other projects led by Bjork include renovation of the Gillom Sports Center, FedEx Academic Support Center and Starnes Athletic Training Center, and the restoration of the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex.

“Everyone in the Ole Miss family will continue to be asked to do their part as we take the next step towards graduating all of our student-athletes and competing for and winning championships,” Bjork said. “The journey continues. We are Ole Miss.”

Bjork and football Coach Hugh Freeze will embark on the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip beginning April 19 in Houston, Texas. The five-state, 13-city tour will allow fans to hear what’s new and exciting in Ole Miss athletics and have an opportunity for photos and autographs. Men’s basketball Coach Andy Kennedy and women’s basketball Coach Matt Insell will join them at select stops.

For a full schedule and tickets, visit http://www.olemisssports.com/.

Panhellenic Community Donates $40,000 to Baptist Memorial Hospital

Check to be presented Feb. 23 during Lady Rebels game

ole miss university of mississippi panhellenic donates community breast cancer CARE walk lady rebs basketball check baptist memorial hospital $40k greeklife

Members of the Oxford-Lafayette community and Panhellenic sororities participate in C.A.R.E. Walk 2014.

OXFORD, Miss. – When it comes to leadership and service, members of the University of Mississippi’s Greek community consistently demonstrate both. Such will again be the case Feb. 23 when the Lady Rebels host the University of Kentucky Lady Wildcats.

During the 6 p.m. game at the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum, UM Panhellenic community representatives will present a $40,000 check to Baptist Memorial Hospital officials for breast cancer research. This was an increase from their $30,000 donation in 2013. The money was raised through donations from local businesses, Panhellenic sororities and those who participated in the Panhellenic Council Cancer Awareness Research and Eradication, or C.A.R.E., Walk in September 2014.

“This as a great way to showcase the work of the students giving back to their local community,” said Jenell Lanski, UM coordinator of Greek affairs. “Students, council officers and chapter community service chairs will be presenting the check to Baptist during halftime.”

Hospital officials said they are grateful for the Greeks’ generosity.

“The Ole Miss Panhellenic Council has been a great contributor to the Baptist Cancer Center over the years, and this year is no exception,” said Peter Dilatush, director of oncology at Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi. “These funds will go so far in fighting against breast cancer here in Oxford and the surrounding communities, and we are honored to be associated with such a great cause.”

The marketing and fan experience division is excited about the continued growth of its breast cancer awareness women’s basketball game and the partnership with Baptist, said Jason List, UM assistant athletics director.

“Over the past decade, breast cancer awareness initiatives in sports have really taken off, especially in collegiate women’s basketball,” List said. “To be able to work with such a terrific supporter in Baptist Hospital on a cause that has affected virtually everyone is not only enjoyable, but important.”

For more about fraternity and sorority life at the UM, call the Office of the Dean of Students at 662-915-7248 or visit http://www.olemiss.edu/greeks.

Ole Miss Breaks Ground on New Arena

Facility to officially be named The Pavilion at Ole Miss

Arena Groundbreaking Ceremony and Reception on Thursday, July 31st, 2014 on the campus of The University of Mississippi.

Arena groundbreaking ceremony and reception on July 31, 2014 on the UM campus.

OXFORD, Miss. – Chancellor Dan Jones called them extraordinary days for the University of Mississippi, as the athletics program and university move forward together and build their shared dream of excellence.

Once a vision, the new basketball arena, which will officially be named The Pavilion at Ole Miss, became more of a reality with a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

“Today is ceremonial, but it also shows it’s a reality,” Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “We have seen the construction fence, the dirt being taken out and the parking garage up, but you have to celebrate a milestone like this. Today was about the ceremony and the reality, but it was also bringing the Ole Miss community together and having our student-athletes see it firsthand.”

Once completed, The Pavilion at Ole Miss will not only be a destination point for the Ole Miss men’s and women’s basketball programs, but for the entire athletics department and university.

“We’re going to have a lot of excellence here,” Jones said. “We’re going to win a lot of basketball games. We’re going to have a lot of good convocations here for students. Parents are going to see their children graduate from this university. Students who come here to look at the university are going to have a great place to convene to begin their campus tours.”

“Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, family, friends and visitors love being on this campus, and so our vision was to create a front door along All-American Drive that would be a capstone for Ole Miss Athletics,” Bjork said. “It’s a destination point for many things that can happen on this campus, and it’s also close to the heart of the campus. The Pavilion at Ole Miss will be a reflection of its name as a large building used for public exhibit and sporting events for the Ole Miss family.”

The new arena, Bjork said, is a commitment to excellence with facilities that speaks to greatness in recruiting and fan experience and a huge statement for the athletics program that shows they’re healthy financially to continue growing and building.

“From a game day experience standpoint and all the things that you are asking from donors, we finally have the opportunity to provide them something that equates to the other sports on this campus,” men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy said. “From a recruiting standpoint, it gives us the opportunity to say, ‘You have everything you need to be successful as it relates to basketball.’ ”

“It’s great, not only for us, but for everyone on campus,” women’s basketball head coach Matt Insell said. “For us in terms of recruiting and walking into a new building, we go on the road and play in a lot of nice facilities and our girls are always wowed, but now teams are going to be wowed by our facilities because it’s going to be one of the best on-campus arenas in the country.”

AECOM is architect of record for the project and is providing architectural design, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, acoustic design and cost consulting. Construction on the attached parking structure has been underway since the beginning of the year. Arena construction is expected to be complete by December of 2015.

“The arena design features an intimate seating bowl for great student interaction and fan experience,” said Jon Niemuth, director of sports for AECOM. “We’re excited to create a venue that embraces the campus community and creates an environment for top-level competitive athletics.”

Bjork announced that the Forward Together capital campaign has reached the $112.5 million mark, on the way to its $150 million goal, which included the $85 million set aside for the new arena.

Ole Miss will continue to aggressively pursue adding a name in front of the word “Pavilion,” whether it’s an individual donor or a corporate sponsor, to work toward bridging the $37.5 million gap.

“Days like this help,” said Bjork of fundraising. “We can take this step, get this project going. We’re under construction and ready to be open by December 2015. It allows us to start focusing on that design process.”

As part of the Forward Together campaign, AECOM recently completed additions and renovations to the Manning Center football headquarters facility and currently is designing improvements for Vaught Hemmingway Stadium.

To learn more about donating to the campaign or securing seats in Ole Miss’ various athletic venues, fans are encouraged to go to ForwardTogetherRebels.com, or contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7159.

AECOM is an international design, planning and engineering firm with an integrated, cross-disciplinary approach to complex infrastructure challenges. AECOM’s sports practice has delivered hundreds of innovative venue designs and renovations at the collegiate, professional and international level