Apr 3, 2008

State of the Nation in Starkville

One of the frustrating things about being a fan of any team is whenever you begin to have some success only to have that success deflated by negative momentum. That frustration is exasperated when you are the fan of a team that consistently is fighting to sustain any positive momentum like Mississippi State. I have bled Maroon and White since I was a kid. I still remember the exhilaration in 1980 when the bulldog football team beat the #1 ranked Crimson Tide in Jackson. I remember the 1985 Diamond Dawgs of Clark, Palmeiro, Brantley, and Thigpen. I was thrilled at the Final Four basketball team of 1996. However, every time we make positive momentum, we seem to endure issues that slow down the momentum and keep us from being an elite program.

The Good
- MSU Football just finished an 8 win season and a Liberty Bowl win despite being picked by every "expert" in the nation to finish last in the SEC West.
- Last year's Diamond Dawgs defeated a good Clemson team to earn a trip back to Omaha for the first time in almost 10 years. (Unfortunately, there were two and out.)
- The MSU basketball team just won the SEC West for the 4th time in the last 6 years and had a great run after starting very poorly in the non-conference schedule.
- The MSU softball team is ranked in the top 25 and is doing very well.
- The "Big 3" sports have three excellent coaches: Football - Coach Croom has built a program the right way; emphasizing discipline, character, and sportsmanship. It has been a long road, and a lot of struggle, but it has paid off. Rick Stansbury has led the Bulldogs to the longest streak of continued success in basketball that I can remember. Even when the Dawgs are picked to finish near the bottom because they lost a lot of personnel, they overachieve. Coach Ron Polk is a baseball legend whose 30 year career is one of the tops in all of college baseball history.

Now, The Bad
- The underachievement of the basketball team at the beginning of the season and the loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament cost the basketball Bulldogs a higher seed and put them up against #1 seed Memphis probably too soon in the tournament. All of a sudden, losses to Miami of OH and South Alabama meant a lot more.
- Last week, 2 key football players, Michael Brown and Quinton Wesley, were dismissed from school and the football team for an on-campus incident. Brown is arguably our best offensive lineman. Just when it seems that character is paying off at MSU, 2 bad apples cast a shadow on all the other young men who have worked hard for this program.
- MSU all-world player Derek Pegues was arrested in March for a suspended driver's license and open container of alcohol.
- Stud linebacker Jamon Hughes was suspended earlier this spring for an undisclosed incident.
- A couple of weeks ago one of the top recruits on Mississippi for next year, Chris Garrett, removed his early commitment to MSU and is now going to LSU. Garrett is a life-long State fan but obviously felt like his best chance for success was in Louisiana and not in Mississippi. Ouch!
- Last week Scotty Hopson, a top basketball recruit, removed his early commitment to MSU and changed to Tennessee. No doubt the success of the Vols this year had a lot to do with that. Tennessee has a lot of positive momentum right now.
- Last week legendary coach Ron Polk announced his retirement from baseball. He has long been frustrated and fighting with the NCAA for many of their foolish procedures and the negative effect these decisions have had on college baseball. He now feels its time to get out of the game. Many have secretly hoped he would have retired earlier. Now there will be a divided fanbase on who should be the next coach. Polk and some others think its time for Tommy Raffo, a loyal assistant, to take the helm. Others want a top-notch coach like John Cohen from Kentucky, Bianco from Ole Miss, or a host of others. No matter who is hired, some will not like the choice.
- The sports staple in Starkville, MSU Baseball, is currently 13-15 and has only won 2 SEC games. They've been swept by Baylor and South Carolina, lost 2 games to North Florida, lost 2 to Georgia and Ole Miss, and have only won against teams they should beat like UAB and Austin Peay. It looks like a sad ending to a great career for Polk.
- Who's running the Athletic Department? Outgoing AD Larry Templeton has handed over the reigns to Greg Byrne. However, this transition has not been very smooth and now we have to wonder who is going to hire the baseball coach? Also, MSU president Doc Foglesong has announced his resignation after only a couple of years, ending a not very popular tenure. Now we have to get a new president and stabilize a volatile athletic department.
- MSU is consistently at the bottom of the SEC on the amount it can set aside for athletic budget because of it's size and the lack of financial support it can generate. This is made worse when MSU fans get aggravated by loses on the field and problems with coaches and players. Most SEC schools spend twice what State does and some spend over three times. These schools usually have larger facilities which translates to larger fan bases and more revenue.

Now, I am not a "doom and gloom" MSU fan like many of my bretheren. I am concerned about some of these negative things that have taken place recently. I only hope that we can turn some of this around. I don't know if football can survive a return this year to a 3 win season after last year's magic. I have complete faith in Coach Croom and his staff to work it out. However, I am also concerned that there is a lot of negative momentum in my beloved Starkville these days. I hope that positive news starts coming out soon.


david said...

Matt, maybe it is time for you to rethink your allegiance. Roll Tide

Matt Haines said...

yeah that would be a lot better. an underachieving football program with an overpriced coach and an underachieving basketball program that wants to fire their coach.