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Ole Miss’ Khayat tapped as president of SEC

[07/23/01] OXFORD Robert Khayat makes the balance of academic integrity and high-quality athletics programs look like an easy hand-off rather than a desperate Hail Mary pass.

The Ole Miss chancellor, who recently completed a campaign that attracted $525.9 million to Ole Miss campuses for academics, is serving a two-year term as president of the Southeastern Conference, arguably one of the strongest and most tradition-rich athletics conferences in the nation.

In his role as SEC president, Khayat works closely with conference commissioner Roy Kramer and an executive committee of other leaders in academics and athletics, as well as NCAA representatives and other conferences.

“Our purpose is to protect and defend the integrity of college athletics,” said Khayat a standout football player at Ole Miss.

“It’s easy to allow commercialism to push athletics in directions that may be financially rewarding but may not be consistent with the values of amateur athletics.”

An NCAA report showed Ole Miss has the highest graduation rate in the country 79 percent.

It was the only NCAA Division I school to have its football team appear in a bowl game, its men’s basketball team make the Sweet 16 and its baseball team compete in the NCAA regionals this past year.

ESPN broadcaster Ron Franklin, an Ole Miss alumnus, has known Khayat for many years.

“They couldn’t have selected a better person,” Franklin said. “The reason Robert is the most natural selection is that he has excelled in athletics and academics he’s seen both sides of the coin.”

A professional football career with the Washington Redskins gave him the financial means to attend law school. A career as a law professor coupled with his athletics experience led to his serving as the first president of the NCAA Foundation.

“One of the great lessons you gain through athletics is your inadequacy and learning discipline, and teamwork,” Khayat said.