Ole Miss Football was built on a foundation of great leaders, great tradition and great performers. On April 4, the Rebels honored all three with the official dedication of the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.
In honor of their extraordinary contributions to the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss Athletics named the newly renovated Indoor Practice Facility the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.
"It's a perfect name," Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. "The Manning name embodies the spirit and family atmosphere that is Ole Miss. Olivia and Archie. What better names to go on this building, not only from a football perspective, but from a leadership perspective."
The renovation and expansion of the Manning Center was made possible by gifts to the Forward Together Campaign. In partnership with Ole Miss Athletics, the Manning family and the family of Billy Van Devender made significant contributions to the campaign in order to honor Olivia and Archie Manning in this special way.
"Archie and I want to thank Chancellor Dan Jones and the entire Ole Miss administration," Olivia Manning said. "We want to express our appreciation to Ross Bjork and everyone in the athletic department. Archie and Billy Van Devender have been best friends for 47 years. We are so grateful to the Van Devender family and our children for their role in making this possible.
"Archie and I feel that having our name on this beautiful facility is the greatest honor we have ever had. We are excited that it will be instrumental in recruiting top student-athletes to Ole Miss and will play a major role in their development while on campus. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Located beside the South End Zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Rebels moved into the spectacular $18 million multi-purpose structure in fall 2004. As part of the Forward Together campaign, a $12.5 million renovation and expansion of the Manning Center commenced in early 2013 and was completed this spring.
"One of my favorite quotes to use in a time like this is, 'a university's greatest treasure is its names.' Today, on this campus, we recognize the association of the university with great Ole Miss names," Jones said. "These families who are represented here today are being recognized because they demonstrated and committed their love for the University of Mississippi, and we extend appreciation by offering an opportunity for their names to be associated with the university in perpetuity."
Among the upgrades was the construction of a full kitchen and dining hall that is part of the Ole Miss dining program and open to every student, faculty and staff member. The facility provides a nutrition center for all Ole Miss student-athletes. The Roland and Sheryl Burns Team Meeting Room was constructed on the north end of the facility lawn between the building and the south end zone of Vaught Hemingway Stadium. It seats approximately 200, doubling the capacity of the previous team room, and the meeting area was outfitted with state-of-the-art audio/video equipment and coaching software. Adjacent to the team room is a new head coach's office, putting all of the staff on the same level in the renovated coaching suite.
With the construction of the team room, a new front door and recruiting room was erected on the site of the old team room and pays tribute to the contributions of Ben Williams and James Reed, Ole Miss' first two African-American football student-athletes. The Williams-Reed Football Foyer celebrates the rich tradition of Rebel football with recruits, alumni and fans with interactive exhibits and memorable images from the program's history.
The existing weight room was expanded on the east side of the Manning Center, widening the area by 2,000 square feet. On the west side, the locker room was overhauled and enhanced to include new player lounges and renamed the Van Devender Family Foundation Locker Room. Also, the Mattingly Family Equipment Room has been renamed to honor the memory of the late Thomas J. Mattingly and his family.