State of Decline????
The below article was published today by Ian Rappaport of the Birmingham News. You may remember Ian used to cover M$U for the Clarion Ledger. He brings up some good points in the article. But I believe the State can support two SEC schools. The problem is the educational system in the high schools. I think the State has plenty of talented athletes to support two athletic departments. Does the state have too many other schools it has to support, yes. The Valley, JSU, and Alcorn State, Southern Miss Delta State are all schools that are funded by the State system that all do not need to be funded. They could easily be combined and formed to make better schools. Combining Valley and Delta State, JSU and Alcorn, etc. would have saved the State millions over the past decades. Unfortunately the Ayers case has held back Mississippi and has not allowed the major universities like State and Ole Miss to move forward. In most cases it has held them back. Bottom line is the State College Board has too many schools that it has to support.
(AL.Com)Standing at the dais during his SEC media days appearance, once again detailing his rebuilding plan, Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom heard a question that made him stop and think.
Can the state of Mississippi support two successful Southeastern Conference programs?
"Hmmm." Croom said.
Anyone who follows the conference has no doubt wondered the same thing. The Bulldogs were 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the SEC in 2006, their sixth losing season in a row. The Ole Miss Rebels, who were 4-8 and 2-6, have three consecutive losing seasons.
Not that one school is rooting for its rival.
"I'm just worried about the (state) supporting one. Them other guys can worry about themselves," Croom said. "I know it can support the one in Starkville."
Perhaps the two Mississippi schools face more disadvantages than many of their opponents.
A state with just 2.9 million people has to support two SEC programs. By contrast, Arkansas and a population of 2.8 million has just one SEC team. Alabama, which has 4.6 million people per the 2006 Census, has two SEC teams.
Throw in a poor education rating, its central proximity that makes it a recruiting battleground, a football history that is more past than present, the conference's lowest budgets, and that State has dealt with a brutal probation: It's an uphill battle for both schools.
"It is what it is," Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said. "I believe in hard work. I drive to most places I go to in recruiting. I fly coach in recruiting. I'm going to get the job done."
Mississippi State has not had a winning record since 2000 when it was 8-4 with an Independence Bowl win. Ole Miss last thrived in 2003 when quarterback Eli Manning helped it go to the Cotton Bowl and finish 10-3 under coach David Cutcliffe.
"Now and then you can have some success," said Jim Mashek, columnist for The Biloxi Sun-Herald, "but it's next to impossible to sustain it year to year."
Simultaneous winning has happened.
Starting with coach Tommy Tuberville in 1997, then with Cutcliffe, Ole Miss ran off seven winning campaigns in a row. But Cutcliffe was fired after a 4-7 season in 2004, and it has been all downhill with Orgeron.
As for Mississippi State, Jackie Sherrill had four winning seasons from 1997 to 2000. With the NCAA investigating his program, he never had another winning season and resigned in 2003, but not before saddling Croom with debilitating probation.
Now, there is a negative perception for both schools.
"People look down on us," said MSU quarterback Michael Henig of Montgomery. "Other teams like LSU and Alabama look on the schedule and go, `We got Mississippi State in the third week, that's a W.' It gets frustrating, but that's why a lot of us came to Mississippi State, to turn this around."
MSU did beat Alabama last season, in a season that included four losses by three points. Such moments have been few. The Rebels have not had a big win since Cutcliffe left.
Neither party made excuses. But in seeking an explanation, "start with the budgets," Croom said.
The athletic budgets for Ole Miss ($33 million) and Mississippi State ($28 million) are 11th and 12th in the conference, according to The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger in a recent story.
Facilities are comparable, and both schools have indoor practice facilities. But the lack of money hurts in recruiting, coaches salaries, etc.
The conference helps, participating in revenue sharing of TV money, for instance. But there is only so much it can do.
"The role of the conference is to make every effort to treat each of its member institutions equitably, and provide each an opportunity to compete in a broad array of sports," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "We understand that each institution has a different profile and its own area of success."
Look at recruiting. The deep high school football talent in the state, along with the fact that it is bordered by four SEC states, make it a target.
Alabama running back Jimmy Johns of Brookhaven, Miss., was a former Mississippi Mr. Football. LSU tight end Richard Dickson of Moss Point, Miss., was a four-star recruit. Auburn star defensive end Quentin Groves was an All-American from Greenville, Miss. The list goes on and on.
"A higher-profile kid who gets the chance to leave the state is almost expected to do it," Mashek said. "You're just going against schools with a lot more resources."
Opponents often flaunt their history.
"With the records the last few years, you hear from schools who are going to bowl games," said Ole Miss' Marcus Tillman of Franklin County, Miss. "They flash that in your face."
Asked what the University of Alabama has as compared to the Mississippi schools, MSU defensive end Titus Brown of Tuscaloosa said, "Twelve national titles. But we're trying to get our own personality."
The academic issues are plentiful, too. One year, six of the Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen, a list of the top in-state players, did not qualify. Croom has done tours aimed at improving education awareness.
"It has gotten better than I anticipated," Croom said. "(But) funding for education is still a problem."
A new NCAA rule tightening academic standards in 2008 won't help the state.
Instability on the coaching staff has not limited the struggling, either. Both Orgeron and Croom have asked for patience.
"The changeover of coaches catches up with you," said Auburn's Tuberville, a former Ole Miss coach. "You've got to give coaches time. When you start over, you start from scratch. It's going to take that coaching staff two or three years to learn the recruiting, get it going again."
It has been that long, and some say the time is now. Both showed flashes of winning big games last year and both look for more this year.
"We just have to put it all together," Ole miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said.