A new era begins at USM

A new era begins at USM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - There is a good chance Jon Gilbert earned some cool points within the University of Southern Mississippi community Tuesday.

President Dr. Rodney Bennett announced Gilbert as the school's seventh director of athletics in front of media and USM staff. This is how Gilbert ended the press conference.

"I'll close with this," Gilbert said. "Today is a great day to be a Golden Eagle. Southern Miss. To the top."

And with that officially began a new era in Southern Miss athletics.

Gilbert replaces Bill McGillis who took on the same position in December at the University of San Diego.

Gilbert comes over from Tennessee where he was executive senior associate AD. Adding to this is seventeen years at Alabama. Even with stops at the aforementioned, Gilbert offered high praise to USM.

"There are a lot of institutions that have things that maybe we don't have," Gilbert said. "But I can tell you this, they don't have our brand and that's what attracted me to this community and I couldn't be more excited to be here."

Throughout his introduction Gilbert made sure to deflect the attention being showered upon him.

"This is not all about me," he said. "You'll learn that quickly. This is about Southern Miss, our student athletes, the athletic department and the university at whole. This is not about Jon Gilbert."

This is exactly the type of vibe Dr. Bennett was looking for during the hiring process.

"I think what I was looking for and what I found is what we all saw during the press conference out there," Bennett said. "A real sense of compassion and transparency and honesty. A real caring person that loves his family and shares the values of south Mississippi in particular and the University of Southern Mississippi."

Gilbert, who played football at Lenoir-Rhyne College, isn't a total stranger to USM's athletic history.

"I have a long history of knowledge of Southern Miss and its athletic programs," Gilbert said. "I was in the stands in 1989 when Southern Miss defeated Florida State.  I was at legion field in 2000 when Jeff Bower's team defeated the crimson tide."

Holding true to his message and Dr. Bennett's sentiments, Gilbert provided a clear plan to getting acclimated to his new surroundings.  It's all geared toward getting close to the athlete experience at USM.

"One of the first things that I'll do when I return to the Hattiesburg community is I want to walk in their foot prints," he said. "I want to walk where they walk. I want to go in their residence halls. I want to go in their dining facilities. I want to see everything that they see."