Rebels Help Satisfy Yen for American Football

College students from Japan visit UM for academic collaboration, gridiron observations

Kobe Gakuin University student-athletes and staff take in the sights inside the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center during their visit to the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Hoping to understand and replicate the University of Mississippi’s football program, a delegation from Kobe Gakuin University in Japan has been meeting Rebel players and observing scrimmages on campus this week.

Three student athletes and three administrators representing the Navy Seals, KGU’s American football club, arrived Monday (March 18) for three days of meetings with UM athletics staff and student-athletes. The visit is the beginning of a partnership between the two universities, which also involves Ole Miss student-athletes going to Japan in late spring/early summer.

“Their goal is to better understand and learn from our football program,” said Whitney Tudor Sarver, senior director of the UM intensive English program and one of the coordinators of the visit. “We have been in extensive communication with the football administration to host this delegation in full compliance with all applicable policies and regulations.”

University officials hope this will be a long-term partnership that will result in more student exchanges, said Bob Baker, senior associate athletics director for student-athlete development.

UM Provost Noel Wilkin (right) receives a gift from Takuya Myamoto, one of three Kobe Gakuin University student-athletes who visited campus this week to observe the Ole Miss football program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The delegation was welcomed by Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks and Provost Noel Wilkin. Activities included a tour of the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center and observations of warm-ups, strength and conditioning workouts and team practices.

“Everything has been going very well,” said Shota Fujimoto, a third-year student in KGU’s humanities and sciences program. “We are learning a lot of information, which I’m sure will be useful to our football program at home.”

Takuya Myamoto, a third-year student in contemporary social studies, said he’d heard good things about UM and its football program even before the international partnership agreement between the two universities was signed last March.

“The University of Mississippi has an international reputation as a strong academic institution,” he said. “Knowing that its football program is a leading team in the Southeastern Conference really made me want to come and see how they do what they do.”

Kobe Gakuin University opened in 1966 as a college offering just one course of study in nutrition. Between 1967 and 2015, additional programs were established in law, economics, pharmaceutical sciences, humanities and science, business administration, rehabilitation, contemporary social studies and global communications.

The Japanese delegation has expressed a great desire that a group of Ole Miss student-athletes and coaches come to KGU at some point,” Baker said. “We are looking into the possibility of making that trip happen.”