University of Mississippi women’s coach wears many more hats

University of Mississippi women's track and field coach Dedrick Burnett skates on the Columbus, Mississippi campus on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. Burnett is not the administrative assistant to the director of women's athletics at University of Mississippi, Jennifer Claybrook.  But in a sports department where almost everyone wears multiple hats, Burnett's hat rack is among the busiest.  (Tom Rysinski / The Commercial Dispatch via AP)

University of Mississippi women’s track and field coach Dedrick Burnett skates on the Columbus, Mississippi campus on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. Burnett is not the administrative assistant to the director of women’s athletics at University of Mississippi, Jennifer Claybrook. But in a sports department where almost everyone wears multiple hats, Burnett’s hat rack is among the busiest. (Tom Rysinski / The Commercial Dispatch via AP)

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Need to take the tennis team to Birmingham? Tell Dedrick Burnett.

Need someone to bring an issue raised by a football player to the athletic director? Tell Dedrick Burnett.

Need a photo of that volleyball game? Yeah, tell Dedrick Burnett.

No, Burnett is not the administrative assistant to the director of women’s athletics at the University of Mississippi, Jennifer Claybrook. But in a sports department where almost everyone wears multiple hats, Burnett’s hat rack is among the busiest.

Officially, Burnett is the head coach of The W’s men’s and women’s cross-country, indoor and outdoor athletics teams. And he hasn’t even signed on for any of that.

“I was named an assistant cross country and track coach,” said Burnett, who arrived in Columbus from Jackson State in 2019. and Burnett has assumed both head coaching positions.

So, naturally, he’s in charge of getting the Owls teams to away games.

“He coordinates the buses, the coach routes, he communicates… that’s a lot of travel,” Claybrook said. “He just volunteered to do it. “

“Jennifer was new to the department, and she already had a lot of work to do to take over a department that was left over from the previous administration with a lot of paperwork to do, especially getting into the NCAA,” Burnett said. “So I decided to see what I could do to help. I thought traveling wouldn’t be so bad.

“I ask the coaches for a route, run the route to make sure everything is okay, then send it to the bus company. I have a separate calendar just for the travel dates of the teams.

Burnett knows more than just travel plans for W student-athletes, he learns a lot more through his role as an advisor to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, made up of two athletes from each W team.

“We get together once a month and talk about what’s going on in your sports, if you need to bring up any topics or concerns,” Burnett said. “We discuss it, and then I report it to Jennifer.”

Burnett’s own racing days aren’t that far behind him; he raced at Jackson State from 2006 to 2010. He said he started out as a distance runner and then was a hurdler.

“Every year I tried something different,” he said. “I like to classify myself as a decathlete.

And he was good too. Burnett has been a three-time all-talk artist during the indoor season and four-time all-talk artist for the outdoor track.

“I always wanted to be a coach,” he said, and if that meant dragging the program around until something opened up, he did.

Burnett started out as an Assistant Equipment Manager and volunteer coach, then moved on to become the Chief Equipment Manager. Now he runs sports teams at the W that together include around 100 student-athletes, a number that will grow, he said.

“We’re small right now,” Burnett said, speaking of the entire sports department. “There have been a lot of coaching changes since I’ve been here, administration as well. I think when we get to the point where we’re stable as a staff, we’re going to thrive. It is a great place.

Its biggest problem is to publicize the university and its sports program.

“A lot of people are finding out that we have a track team, so it’s wrestling,” he admitted. “We are forgotten.”

Behind Burnett’s office in the sports department is a unique piece of art depicting Scooby-Doo on a track.

“I found this artist online – someone suggested it to me – and I was like, ‘That’s the concept. I love Scooby-Doo, I do hurdles, I’ve been to Jackson State. What can you do with it?

So, the Great Dane who solves mysteries is behind him every day, on a track with “Jackson State” sporting the hurdles. A smile is guaranteed to generate, although Burnett is very serious about his job.

“He’s going to do a great job in whatever he does,” Claybrook said. “He’s passionate about our students, he’s passionate about our department, the coaches and our university. He gives everything he has, 100%.

“He’s the kind of person you want your student-athletes, you want your kids, to model.”


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