Speaking as a Mississippi State University fan (and alum), I’ve seen my share of last place finishes, not only in the SEC West, but in the SEC as a whole. It is what it is, but my never wavering support of a college that historically has NOT been at the top of the SEC football food chain is exactly what defines me as a true State fan. Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with the guys on WMOX Radio 1010 in Meridian, MS and we were talking about the famed Egg Bowl between MSU and Ole Miss. During the show I said, “If you’re a State fan it means you’re patient.” It also means you’ve had experience coming ‘oh so close’ on several levels, whether it’s the College Baseball World Series, the NCAA Basketball Final Four/Championship, or the CFP in their inaugural year with a QB like Dak Prescott – the FIRST #1 of the Playoff system debut… for five weeks. That made me a very proud fan and I flaunted it…. some of my local Florida friends and co-workers were amused by my vocal celebrations of being #1 in the country. To truly appreciate my excitement, you would have to be a State fan. I kept explaining, “You don’t understand — this is a big deal.” During that same time Ole Miss was ranked in the Top Five – considering that Mississippi is typically associated with negativity on a variety of fronts, it was nice to see our universities be in the spotlight for something good!
We aren’t accustomed to having national attention or interest from national championship programs recruiting our head coach… until today when the University of Florida sealed a deal for Dan Mullen to be their new man in charge. Yes, I’m sad and disappointed because I thought he was one of those coaches that would keep his word when he recently stated he and his family loved Starkville and weren’t going anywhere. I get it though and I don’t think it’s completely about money.
Do you know how far you can stretch $4+ million in Starkvegas?! Pretty dang far. Trust me on this because I’ve lived there in Starkville and I now live in FL. Big difference in cost of living! I think it’s about the challenge to do more, to win more, and to achieve more. Players thrive on competition, but so do their coaches. I can’t blame Mullen for wanting to DO MORE, but I also know his family has felt the heat with a program like UF in the past… in Gator Nation! I’m getting mixed comments from my UF friends as to whether or not they’re on board with the Mullen train at the Swamp.
This is the same university that has fired winning coaches with winning records. While high-profile, historically successful programs like Georgia, LSU and UT have been ‘patient,’ programs like Bama, Auburn, and UF don’t extend such grace.
If you’re gonna coach and be heralded as truly successful, you gotta be FIRST… or you’re going to be considered LAST! (as quoted by Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights). NCAA greats like Tim Tebow are welcoming Mullen with open arms…. but it will be the number of wins, bowl appearances, and championships that will determine whether that is enough to avoid the boot like the last few HC’s in Gainesville have received, in a short period of time.
Thank you, Coach Mullen, for bringing innovative change to MSU and for your enthusiasm and leadership to land and mold such greats as Dak Prescott. In being a lifelong State fan, I can honestly say I enjoyed seeing our program elevate to take strides to greatness. Hoping Gator Nation is equally as kind.