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Southern Miss Announces Launch of Bower Academic Excellence Center Campaign

July 30, 2015

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Athletics, in conjunction with the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation, announced the launch of the Bower Academic Excellence Center Campaign Thursday morning at a media conference held in the Giannini Touchdown Terrace of Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

The $2 million capital campaign, of which $1.15 million has already been privately raised, will fund a new student-athlete academic center named in honor of long-time Golden Eagle football coach Jeff Bower. As the second-winningest coach in the program's history with 119 victories over 17 seasons and Conference USA's first Coach of the Decade, Bower established a very strong record of success on the field while placing an even greater emphasis on his student-athletes' success in the classroom. In addition to the program's graduation rate, numerous former Golden Eagles earned Academic All-Conference and Academic All-American honors. Also, the Bower family's emphasis on academics has been demonstrated by their scholarship endowment, which currently ranks as the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation's largest endowment.

"For all the games, bowls and championships his teams' won, Coach Bower's legacy was his commitment to the student-athletes and his dedication to making sure that they were as successful in the classroom as they were on the playing field. He always understood and believed that the most essential goal for a student-athlete to attain was to leave Southern Miss with a degree," said Director of Athletics Bill McGillis. "His legacy goes way beyond his team's successes on the field. The naming of this facility for Coach Bower is an appropriate way to recognize and honor his extraordinary achievements and commitment to Southern Miss student-athletes."

The Bower Academic Excellence Center will be built underneath the west side stands of M.M. Roberts Stadium and will replace the program's current facility located on the same site. The new facility will be nearly double the size of the current facility and will include a classroom, computer lab, large study area, library and career resource center, group study rooms, 11 private tutoring rooms and office space for academic support and compliance staff among other amenities.

"Thanks to the generosity of the members of the Athletic Foundation, Circle of Champions and Eagle Club, we have made some remarkable improvements in our playing facilities over the last 15 years. The Duff Athletic Center, the South End Zone Complex at The Rock, Pete Taylor Park, our outstanding tennis facility, our new softball stadium, our new track and the recently-completed Judson Family Golf Practice Facility are among the finest facilities in the region, if not the country," said McGillis. "We now need a first-class academic facility in order to support our student-athletes in the classroom, to enable them to achieve their maximum potential academically and to pursue excellence in their chosen fields and careers.

"I am very pleased that we have raised $1.15 million during the quiet phase of this project, which includes a $400,000 challenge/match by one individual who is committed to inspiring others to invest in this project. Along with increasing membership in the Eagle Club and funding for scholarships - which is critical - this is our most important fundraising initiative. Winning in the classroom, winning on the playing field and winning in the community is made possible by people, and our people can make this project a reality. "

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to this campaign may do so by clicking here, signing in or creating an account, clicking on the Athletic Foundation Facilities 2015 tab at the bottom of the page, and selecting the Bower Academic Center fund under usages.

For more information or to make a gift over the phone, contact the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation at 601.266.5055.

Quotes from Today's Media Conference
Former Southern Miss football coach Jeff Bower
"I am very honored and appreciative for this recognition. This has been something that was always important to me. As the head football coach, I wanted to help our players in any way that we could to help them be successful in the classroom. This facility is long overdue. We have needed this for a long time. It is going to be great for our student-athletes. Even though we have been successful here and graduated student-athletes, this facility will help. I hope a lot of people will want to get involved and want to give to this project. It is a $2 million project and we have raised a little over a million. I hope a lot of people will get involved and will support something that our student-athletes really need. "When you go to a quality facility that is conducive to learning and doing what you have to do as far as studying and preparing for classes, I think that makes a difference."

On how he got involved in the project...
"They looked at my track record academically and saw that we did extremely well. I was involved. Coaches were involved, more so than any other place I had ever been. The players knew that we meant what we said and that it was important to us."

On what it means to have the Academic Excellence Center named in your honor...
"It is a little bigger than I thought. Like I said, if you stay somewhere long enough, they are going to name something after you. But, I like to think it is because we enjoyed a lot of academic success. Winning on the field and also winning in the classroom. That is what it is all about. During my tenure, I feel like we did a pretty good job at that."

On how much pride are you taking in the academic center...
"A lot. I really feel like the number one responsibility is to give your student-athletes everything that you possibly can to increase their ability to get a degree. We did that. To have my name associated with that, I feel good about that."

Quotes from Southern Miss Athletic Members on the Bower Academic Excellence Center
Mary Pursell - Student-Athlete, Volleyball
"This is a great project. It's long overdue, but I'm very appreciative that Mr. McGillis has recognized the need for a new academic center for the athlete. Student comes before athlete always. We are students first and athletes second. Our main goal is the get an education and get a degree. I think that is great that they are putting so much emphasis on the fact that we need proper facilities in order to better our education and prepare ourselves for the classroom. I appreciate all of the support we get from Ms. Stacy Breazeale. She does so many things behind the scenes that a lot of people don't recognize. Just looking at the floor plans, it's going to be beautiful and I'm very excited for the future of Southern Miss."

Daphney Stanford - Student-Athlete, Cross Country
"I'm really excited about the new project. I go to study hall daily and it's always been a big thing for me to do. It's close and I can go right after practice. The academic center enables me to stay on track with the help of the counselors. The new center will be nice, in helping me with my studies."

Xavier Thigpen - Student-Athlete, Football
"With this announcement, the school is saying academics come first. Doing this project means a lot to us because we will have more room to work, better areas, and more space for tutors."

Stacy Breazeale, Director of Academics
"The new Bower Academic Excellence Center will address the needs our student-athlete's academic goals. For the courses that require daily computer access, the increased space of the new Computer Lab will allow us to accommodate twice the number of students. The additional rooms for tutors will create more individualized support in a quiet setting. In addition, the classroom and group study area provide a convenient location for orientation meetings and life skills programming. With the new Center, the academic support staff will be able to provide personalized attention to better meet our student's educational needs and fulfill their ultimate goal of earning a degree."

Amanda Berkley - Head Volleyball Coach
"I'm very excited about the new academic center. It's a much needed thing for our student-athletes. They will see a lot of benefit out of it in the future."

Erika Brennan - Head Women's Golf Coach
"It's exactly what we need. Academics is important. They are student-athletes and student comes first. So getting to graduation is always the most important thing. From a recruiting standpoint, it's going to help attract even better prospective student-athletes to our campus and certainly be able to parade them through there and have that be the show piece that we know it can be. It's going to be incredible for the future of our program."

Jerry Weeks - Head Men's Golf Coach
"First of all, this is a much needed project. What we have here at Southern Miss is a great group of counselors and this will just enhance the student-athlete, really the student that we are looking for to come here and excel in the classroom. This gives them a heads up and a big advantage over our competition. Recruiting wise, it's going to be an awesome project."

Joye Lee-McNelis - Head Women's Basketball Coach
"It's a great day in Southern Miss athletics. Our student-athletes, our coaches and our academic center has done a tremendous job in helping our student-athletes achieve academic success with very limited resources. For us to be able to a part of something that is going to be extra special in helping our student-athletes enjoy academic success in a brand new building and enjoy an opportunity to enhance life skills at Southern Miss, it's overwhelming and so exciting. We are very appreciative of the people who have made this happen. To name it the Jeff Bower Academic Excellence Center belongs to no one else. He has had our football program rated nationally with Notre Dame and Duke academically and have achieved so much success on the football field as well as in the classroom. He truly deserves this honor of having this academic center named after him."

Doc Sadler - Head Men's Basketball Coach
"This is a very exciting day for Southern Miss. I don't think there is a better person that it could be named after. As we say in sports, it's a win-win situation for everybody and I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Scott Berry - Head Baseball Coach
"This is a great way to honor coach Bower because a big part of his coaching philosophy was the student part of the student-athlete experience and the impact that your education would have after your playing career ended. He was always a strong believer in discipline off the field, which translated to discipline and success on the field. For this new academic center to be named after him, it just continues his legacy and the impact that he had at Southern Miss in his career."

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