ANALYSIS: Time to put swagger back in program

Current MSU players might only know former Spartans great Bubba Smith from his appearances in the "Police Academy" series of movies, but that's OK, once Smith begins regaling the players with stories of how he single-handedly took over games enroute to an 8-0 season before the legendary tie, they'll certainly want to know more about him and the national championship teams of the past.

EAST LANSING - If John L. Smith wants the Michigan State Spartans program to regain the luster of the past, he ought to schedule time for each of the fourty-five returning former Spartan greats to speak to his current team individually.

Smith ought to have the locker room filled with alumni and recruits on official visits. He will never have a better chance to show his players - and potential players- how great Michigan State really was and can be again.

The 1966 "Greatest Game Ever Played" between Michigan State and Notre Dame lives on in the annuals of college football lore for good reason, it was truly a great game.

Current MSU players might only know former Spartans great Bubba Smith from his appearances in the "Police Academy" series of movies, but that's OK, once Smith begins regaling the players with stories of how he single-handedly took over games enroute to an 8-0 season before the legendary tie, they'll certainly want to know more about him and the national championship teams of the past.

Scheduled to attend the primetime contest are fullback Bob Apisa, halfback Clinton Jones, Smith, wide receiver Gene Washington and rover George Webster. Other headliners returning include offensive guard Tony Conti, quarterback Jimmy Raye, linebacker Charlie 'Mad Dog' Thornhill and offensive tackle Jerry West.

Michigan State overall and John L. Smith in particular could and should do a better job in promoting and tying the program to the great Spartans team of the past. 1270 WXYT show host Mike Valenti, a alumnus of the University has long lamented the schools failure to both trumpet its great football history and its similar failure to use as a stepping stone for future success.

"Where is the mention of the six national championships? Why isn't there a ring of honor inside the stadium," Valenti recently asked on the "Sports Inferno" show he hosts on the station.

Where and why indeed?

Michigan State's head basketball coach Tom Izzo often has former players like former Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat star Steve Smith and Los Angeles Lakers great Ervin Magic Johnson visit the basketball program. The presence of those outstanding players have helped recruiting and have kept the MSU program among the nation's elite.

Would not MSU benefit from having greats like those who are returning this weekend around in a similar fashion? What school has produced more outstanding professional receivers like Plaxico Burress, Andre Rison, Muhsin Muhammad, Darryl Turner and Charles Rogers?

"One thing MSU has never done until now is something schools like Notre Dame, USC, Michigan do, which is keep the former athletes close to the school," Spartan great Clinton Jones told the Lansing State Journal. "That's very important to building a cohesiveness and a tradition. After President (John) Hannah left, MSU lost that, but now I think it's coming back."

Michigan State Athletic Director Ron Mason was instrumental in putting together the gathering of the Spartans greats and was pleased that Smith agreed to have his jersey retired. Current Spartan Justin Kershaw wears the number that will be taken out of circulation once he graduates.

Smith has made moves to incorporate the Spartans great history by forming a Spartan players alumni association and many former players have rekindled their association with the school through it.

But as Valenti suggested, why not list the six National Championships (1951, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1965, 1966) on the Spartan Stadium scoreboard? Why isn't their a "Ring of Honor" around the stadium with a bust or a plaque commenmorating their accomplishments?

In the 1966 game, Smith called the Irish "a bunch of sissies" because they ran out the clock and settled for a tie rather than attempt to get in field goal position, because they feared the Spartans defense.

That's what you call "swagger." It's time to bring it back to the Spartans football program.


Spartan Nation Top Stories