Who do you think should manage Ferriday water?|
Story Archives: Can't wait for Egg Bowl
|Can't wait for Egg Bowl|
The rivalry was the talk of 2011 Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., last week.
No, not Alabama-Auburn. Nick Saban and Gene Chizik went out of their way to say "nicey-nice" things about each other's school, program and fans.
No, the rivalry that created a lot of attention and questions was Ole Miss-Mississippi State.
And it was evident that Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt was becoming more agitated as the questions about Mississippi State's marketing campaign continued.
State has put billboards up in Mississippi stating, "Welcome to our State." That is also on the front of their media guide.
Saban said this about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, which received more attention in February after an Alabama fan poisoned the oak trees at Toomer's Corner where anytime anything good happens concerning Auburn, toilet paper can usually be found hanging from the trees. Also known as "rolling the corner", this tradition is thought to have originated in the 1950s to celebrate away victories; however, in recent years it has become a way to celebrate anything good that happens concerning Auburn.
"First of all, let me say that I think we have two great institutions," Saban said Friday in the final day of Media Days. "I think we have a lot of wonderful people who support those institutions in a very positive way. I think the respect that we have for each other is very, very important, and in no way should affect the competitive rivalry we have with each other. But I also think that some of the things that have been negatives are not really good. And I think there's just a small number of people who probably create this - on both sides."
A writer asked Saban about an Alabama fan in the lobby one floor down who was wearing an "I hate Auburn T-shirt" and what would he tell that person?
"I would tell him it's not personal, that it really isn't personal. That is not really the way that we should respect the opponents that we have."
As for Chizik, the Auburn coach said on Thursday, "Let me retrace, let me back up a little bit, let me talk about the Auburn/Alabama rivalry. I still am very adamant that this is one of the greatest rivalries in college football, as history would have it. There's so much passion in that rivalry. I think it's like anything else, you know, the majority of the people out there - both sides - are really, really educated football people. They're very, very in tune to the passion of the rivalry without going overboard."
"But as anything in life, you're going to have some individuals who, you know, go over the limit," Chizik said. "As I've always said, there's such a high level of respect for the coaches and the coaches, the players and the players. If there's one thing that I could impart to everybody is that if the fan base as a whole had the same amount of respect for each other as the coaches and the players, then I think you'd see, you know, less of these things happen. Although there's not many of those incidents that do happen, again, it's one of the greatest rivalries in college football, and I don't think that's really indicative of the way everybody feels about it."
Now on to State-Ole Miss. Mullen actually did not say much, as has been the case with refusing to say Ole Miss and calling the school, "That School up North," Mullen was letting the billboard do most of his talking.
A reporter told Mullen that while driving up from Baton Rouge when he crossed into Mississippi, there was a billboard with his face on it that said, "Welcome to our State.
Mullen first asked with a big smile, "Did you enjoy your time there."
Mullen then made it a point to once again not talk about Ole Miss. Or rather not mention their name.
"Well, we got Southern Miss coming on the schedule soon in a couple years," he said. "Larry (USM head coach Fedora) will probably get upset with the sign. To me, we are the state university for Mississippi. We're the people's university. It's really important for us and for me to get out there and make sure that we show that. We represent the people of the state well."
So when Nutt took the stage on Friday, most of the questions surrounded the marketing campaign by MSU.
The fourth question of the day started things rolling.
"Coach, Dan Mullen stated yesterday he had billboards up on the state lines saying it was his state. Does that type of stuff affect you in recruiting or does it even affect you at all?"
Nutt made it a point to let everyone know that Ole Miss finished ahead of State in recruiting this year. Scout.com had Ole Miss with the 27th best recruiting class, while Mississippi State was ranked No. 44.
"You checked recruiting this past season, right?," Nutt said. "It didn't affect us. We had the best recruiting in the state of Mississippi. You know, the thing that I want to do, I want our staff and I — I want to go to Atlanta. It's one of the greatest games, greatest venues, greatest environments there is to win a championship. Ole Miss has never been to Atlanta. That's all I really focus on. I don't really worry about it. Sometimes when coaches make a statement like that, I don't really worry about it. I don't concern myself with that because it all comes down to your body of work."
And then a real zinger.
"And to waste your time on energy, using just valuable energy on something like that is a waste of time," Nutt added. "You better be concentrating on recruiting, concentrating on winning, helping your players become a better person and a better football player."
And then this question:
"I understand the results are the most important, but how do you find the balance between the results and sending a message, something important to your fan base, even if it's not as high up on your priority list in terms of the state of Mississippi, whose state is it?"
"Okay, you're going back to that," Nutt said with a smile. "Here is what I do know. Number one, we first got here, we had two back-to-back AT&T Cotton Bowl victories first time in 50 years on January 1. Hadn't gone to a bowl the previous five years. So we got on this roll. There's an excitement to see Michael Oher, "Blindside," see Dexter McCluster, Jamarca Sanford, Peria Jerry, John Jerry, Michael Wallace, to see their attitude of gratitude, how they loved Ole Miss and how they knew at that time that they could win. So to answer your question, there's good things at Ole Miss. There's really good things happening. Look at the recruiting. You look at our campus, we have one of the most beautiful campuses in America. That's easy to sell."
After I asked Nutt a question about former Bastrop standout Randall Mackey and someone else asked him to access the SEC West, this question followed:
"You addressed the demographics, things that you deal with coaching at a smaller school in a smaller state. Mississippi State has taken on a real aggressive marketing approach. They put great emphasis on the Egg Bowl, which Dan has won his two years in Starkville. How do you deal with that on the surface? We're not expecting an internal discussion, but what does that do for you guys in Oxford that your main rival in the SEC West is going after you so hard?"
"It's all about winning, the bottom line," Nutt said, using more patience than a lot of folks probably would have had, although still a bit agitated having to address the issue. "And the reason they're loud right now is they've won the last two years. But, again, my energy is going to be what's going to help us win.
"You know, that first year we beat Mississippi State 45-0, didn't think nothing about it because the previous nine out of 10 years we'd beaten them," Nutt said, ready to bury the issue. "I do understand the Egg Bowl. I understand how passionate our fans are about that ballgame. That's a real, real intense rival. I understand that. Our fans have to live with it for one full year. So the last two years, it's been difficult. The only thing that you can do, the only thing, is you have to do it in between those lines. That's the only way you can do that. Our players know that. Our coaches know that.
"As far as getting into the marketing part of it, we have marketing people to do that. I have this job. This is 365, 24/7, coaching, recruiting players, period."
And then someone responded, "You mentioned nine out of 10."
"I have a sting anytime we lose. It's a real sting anytime we lose," Nutt said. "Again, obviously you keep bringing it up. It's a real rival. Our players and coaches understand that. And there's only one thing to do about it."
About that time, Nutt's time ran out, no doubt much to his relief.
Ole Miss senior running back Brandon Bolden, who played high school football at Scotlandville High, including one year under current Ferriday head coach Richard Oliver, told Sentinel writer Jake Martin he finds the billboards humorous.
"I drive from Louisiana to Oxford, so I drive past the Starkville exit and you can see a big billboard of (Mullen) pointing saying 'This is our State,'" Bolden said.
Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 41-27 in 2009 and defeated the Rebels 31-23 a year ago.
"I mean he can say that right now. They did beat us two years straight, so they can talk," Bolden said. "But we still have to play another game."
"It's all about winning, the bottom line. And the reason they're loud right now is they've won the last two years. But, again, my energy is going to be what's going to help us win," Nutt said. "You know, that first year we beat Mississippi State 45-0, didn't think nothing about it because the previous nine out of 10 years we'd beaten them."
Bolden laughed about the billboard and said if this is Mullen's state then why isn't Starkville the capital of Mississippi?
"Ok, if this is your state, then why isn't the state capital right there?" Bolden said. "Why does everybody go to Ole Miss. It's just all talk right now, but like I said we still have another game to play."
Never mind the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26 in Auburn.
I can't wait for the Egg Bowl on that same day in Starkville.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|