New Director of Athletics Appointed

New Director of Athletics Appointed

April 7, 2022
Contact:  Ryan Smith, Sports Information Director

MOUNT OLIVE –  University of Mount Olive President Dr. H. Edward Croom has announced the appointment of Joey Higginbotham as Director of Athletics.  He will succeed Jeff Eisen who retired in December after 16 and a half years at the helm of Trojan athletics.

In making his announcement to the Department of Athletics, President Croom said, “Joey Higginbotham loves the University of Mount Olive.  He is invested in this community and he bleeds green.  I am confident that he is going to make a tremendous impact here in his new role.”

A formal media conference, to meet and greet Joey Higginbotham will be held at 11 AM on Friday, April 8, in the Hennessee Room located in the Holmes and Lois Murphy Regional Center on the University of Mount Olive campus.  The conference can be viewed live on the Trojan Sports Network.

UMO Faculty Athletics Representative and chair of the Director of Athletics search committee, Dr. Brenda Cates, said, “Throughout the search process, Joey’s unwavering commitment to and love for the University resonated with the committee. As a former UMO student-athlete, assistant coach, and head coach, Joey’s knowledge of Trojan athletics, from multiple perspectives, combined with his extensive experience, were key factors in recommending him to President Croom.”

Higginbotham’s connection to Mount Olive athletics first began when he was a student and member of the men’s basketball team.  With a degree from UMO in sports management, he was hired in 1999 to join the coaching staff of the Trojan men’s basketball program.  In May of 2008, he was promoted to Head Coach, succeeding longtime Coach Bill Clingan.

“My family and I are extremely humbled and appreciative of this opportunity,” said Higginbotham.  “I am excited to build on what Mr. Eisen has established as an outstanding athletics program.  I am most excited about helping our coaches and student-athletes reach their academic and athletic goals.  I cannot wait to ignite Trojan athletics within this great Mount Olive community.  It’s a Great Day to be a Trojan.”

As head coach, Higginbotham guided Mount Olive to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the second time in school history and to their first-ever 30-win season in 2014-15. Mount Olive posted a 31-4 record and won the Conference Carolinas regular-season title with a 19-1 mark.  Mount Olive won the NCAA II Southeast Regional as the No. 4 seed, defeating top-seeded Lincoln Memorial.

During his 14 seasons as Head Coach, Higginbotham was named Conference Carolinas Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year four times. He was also selected as 2009-10 NABC Division II Men’s Basketball Southeast Region Coach of the Year.  Throughout his UMO coaching career, Higginbotham had an overall record of 231-140 and a conference record 166-84. He has also had an impact on the academic side with 97.3 percent of his basketball student-athletes graduating.

On March 1, 2008, with Higginbotham at the helm, the men’s basketball program made school history with it first ever live national television appearance in a game against rival Barton College which aired on what is now CBS Sports Network.

On the personal side, Higginbotham is married to Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham, former Trojan Head Softball Coach and current UMO Professor.  They have two daughters, Addison and Gracelyn. The family lives in Mount Olive.

Jeff Eisen, who is currently serving as Interim Director of Athletics, will assist in the administrative transition as Higginbotham moves into his new role.  A search for a new head men’s basketball coach will begin immediately.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit