University of Southern Mississippi Interim President Aubrey Lucas stepped to the podium at the campus's Trent Lott Center to announce that Interim Athletic Director Jeff Hammond will be named the university's new athletic director.
Hammond has been serving as A.D. for the last six months - filling in after former Director Richard Giannini who was in the position for 13 years - abruptly stepped down in December. Its been a rocky start for the former Army Major General, who's currently facing two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints from female staffers that alleged intimidation and harassment.
"I make adjustments every day and I will continue to make adjustments," said Hammond at the press conference announcing his new appointment. "I learn from my mistakes. There have been times along the way where I think I may have been a little bit too direct. I think that's a combination of where I came from as a military officer, a lot of that has to do - I think you'll find most former quarterbacks are very direct kinds of people. It's just kind of the nature of being a leader. But I've had to adapt my leadership style to the best interests of the led. I'm the type of guy that believes the leader must be with the led and I've got to accommodate their interests foremost, ahead of mine always."
The choice is divisive one; some major donors and athletic boosters opposed the selection. But the former Golden Eagle quarterback has a strong support base that petitioned for his appointment, and former USM President Martha Saunders - who stepped down suddenly in April, was one of his key proponents.
It will be a tough road ahead for the athletic department. Just two months ago Hammond announced that the department he'll now take over is running on a nearly one million dollar budget deficit.
The university is expected to have a new president in place by the end of this year. Some speculate Hammond's one year contract is a trial and error period, meant to leave the decision up to whoever takes over.
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