Owen replaces Ball: What do the compliance moves mean for Ole Miss?
The second shakeup involving people involved in the Ole Miss NCAA mess -- or third if you count Hugh Freeze -- happened on Wednesday.
Nearly 10 months after the resignation of general counsel Lee Tyner, Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork sent out a department-wide email, naming Julie Owen as the new Senior Associate Athletics Director, replacing Matt Ball, who is being “reassigned within the athletics department.”
Here’s a CliffsNotes version of the news and what it means, in my opinion, for Ole Miss moving forward.
MATT BALL WILL NO LONGER HAVE ANY SAY IN COMPLIANCE
This is mainly opinion, but it’s an educated one for anyone who has an awareness in how universities operate. Ball won’t simply be slid down the compliance totem pole, and it’s easy logic to know the hourglass has been turned over on his tenure in Oxford. Ball has zero public support, was one of the key faces of an NCAA disaster and has now been replaced. Whether he moves into some other role for a bit or not, Ole Miss compliance is moving on from his era.
Also, Ole Miss doesn't have its appeal verdict, but it's expected at any time.
JULIE OWEN HAS EXCELLENT REPUTATION INSIDE AND OUTSIDE DEPARTMENT
Owen, who coincidentally also worked with Ball at Oklahoma, has an excellent reputation with Ole Miss coaches, and there should be an improvement in the give-and-take dynamic that’s sometimes difficult between compliance and coaching staffs.
Compliance requires assisting staffs on day-to-day measures while helping coaches navigate around landmines. Too far in either direction is a major issue for the athletics department. An Ole Miss coach described Owen to me tonight as “awesome and an ass kicker.” That pretty much sums up what you hope to hear for that position.
A NEW POSITION IS BEING DEVELOPED
Ole Miss is developing a senior associate general counsel position that will be a primary legal counsel employee for the benefit of athletics. Duties will likely include personnel contracts, service agreements and many other necessary legal tasks but will also have a big-picture say in the compliance situations on campus.
Instead of lumping the school’s general counsel into all the athletics issues, this person will specialize in understanding the athletics department and how things move about from small to large in scope. The person will work with general counsel Erica McKinley, who was previously the chief operating officer of the National Basketball Players Association. The position was in the works prior to McKinley being hired.
WHAT'S NEXT REMAINS TO BE SEEN
These moves are positives for Ole Miss going forward, but they probably won’t move the needle to a degree that greatly affects fan morale — though Ball’s eventual and likely imminent departure is a significant action after the NCAA case results to this point.
With enrollment dipping and donor volatility handcuffing the university, the majority of Ole Miss supporters are awaiting any word as to the future of chancellor Jeffery Vitter. A general malaise has befallen the school in recent months, and Vitter’s popularity, or lack there of, is at the center of it.
His fate is in the hands of the Mississippi State Institution of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, and each monthly meeting brings about new rumors and wondering as to what his future is at Ole Miss. They meet next on October 18, and the November 15 meeting was originally scheduled to be on the Ole Miss campus, however it’s been moved to Jackson, per the BoT schedule.