"We have. Other than a few minor details here and there with one or two games, it had been done for quite a while. Of course, all of this is tentative because we are still waiting on contracts to be signed. That will probably take a couple of weeks. But we feel very confident in the schedule that we have."
Who are some of the non-SEC teams on the 2012 schedule other than the normal ones?
"We have some very interesting teams coming in. We have some teams from power conferences that a lot of fans can relate to, power conferences such as the Pac-12, the Big East, the Big Ten and the Big 12."
Some of the names on the schedule from the conferences you mentioned are Washington State, who you play the first weekend of the season (Friday-Sunday, Feb 17-19), then Kansas comes in the next weekend (Friday-Sunday, Feb 24-26), Following them is UConn the next weekend (Saturday-Monday, March 3-5). And you even have Penn State in for a two-game mid-week series (Tuesday-Wednesday, March 6-7). Those are some well known schools coming to Starkville.
"We have Penn State coming in prior to our last non-conference weekend of the year. We'll go from the UConn weekend tournament series right into the Penn State series. It's a good chance to see a Big Ten team come in here. And they are just one of four teams from power conferences coming in here. We are excited about that.
"But we have a great draw. We have an unbelievable stadium, a great playing surface. Bart Prather does a tremendous job with our field. Our gameday atmosphere is electric. We have the number 1 fans in America. And a lot of these other teams hear about all of that, including the Left Field Lounge, and they want to come here and play."
Based on this year's schedule, it appears you continue to make the schedule a little bit tougher each season. Am I correct in saying that?
"Absolutely, you want to bring in teams that are going to have solid RPIs. One of those teams is Washington State. They have been a very solid program for awhile. Two years ago they were in the Fayetteville Regional as the number 2 seed and took Arkansas to the wire. (Their head coach) Donnie Marbut has done a great job there.
"But bringing in those type teams will always help you out RPI-wise. And, as you saw from us last year, our RPI was very, very solid at the end of the year. And playing a team like a Washington State might even help our RPI a few more points. That may be what the (NCAA Baseball) selection committee looks at when it comes to giving a team a host site.
"We don't want to put the cart before the horse but it's always good to have teams from power conferences on your schedule because you feel their RPIs should be solid."
One of those four teams, Kansas, was a late addition. How did that come about?
"I talked to Rich Price, their head coach, about two years ago about trying to schedule them. He kept us in mind during those two years. And something happen to his schedule for the second weekend of 2012. Last week, he called me and asked if we had a weekend available. I told him which weekend we had and he said that might work. He said he would check on some things and get back with me. I spoke with Coach Cohen about the conversation and asked him if he was fine with it. And he said he absolutely was. Coach Price called me back and said he was in, so I locked him down on the schedule."
UConn has developed into a pretty good program. How did you wind up getting them on your 2012 schedule?
"(UConn Head Coach) Jim Penders has done a tremendous job there. During the past five years, from a baseball standpoint, they have gone from being an unknown to being a powerhouse in the northeast. At the end of this past season, they were ranked 13th in the country in the final coaches poll rankings while we were ranked 15th. You have a potential top-15 matchup, based on last season's rankings, right here at Dudy Noble Field during the third weekend of the season."
How did you wind up with Penn State on your schedule?
"The very first year on the job I was doing scheduling. I was handed a piece of paper with a lot of notes on it but it didn't have much set in stone. I then went to websites of schools and went through their staff directory, finding out who the coaches were. I went through the entire Big Ten and Big East doing that. I then sent them an email telling them that Mississippi State was looking to add some games and if they couldn't come this year what about the next year or the year after that. A lot of the folks got back to me but they couldn't do it the next two years due to prior obligations. But one of the assistant coaches at Penn State kept my email address in his phone and sent me an email last year letting me know they were going to be in the southeast playing some games and that they needed two games mid-week. I asked him what were the dates, he told me and I said we could absolutely do it."
Is scheduling so-called power conference teams something that you want to try to do every year from now on?
"Sure, anytime you can do something like that I believe it creates an interest in the fanbase. Anything you can do to enhance the atmosphere is always a positive."
Do you have to return trips to any of those four teams?
"We don't. They are all contract games. We have different contracts set up to accommodate them for traveling here.
"In the past we have done that kind of thing but we really want to make a conscious effort to include a lot of home games this year. During the last two years we have really wanted to have as many home games as possible to give our fans as many chances as possible to see us play. And another part to this is teams want to come here and not only play in a good atmosphere but play a solid opponent as well. And (the third thing is) our park gives us a tremendous home field advantage because of how unique it is.
"Our park was very good to us this past season when we played 35 home games, which tied a Mississippi State record for home games. And this coming year we will break that record with 37 home games. We feel that is a direction that we want to go in."
We discussed the 2012 schedule. What are some things going on with the 2013 schedule?
"In 2013 we already have the first four weekends pretty much set up, although all of it is still very tentative. We open up with Portland from the west coast. They may not be as well known as a Washington State but they are a team with a top 100 RPI, a lot of solid arms and they are very strong in their conference.
"The following weekend we originally had Oregon State on the schedule but when the Pac 10 increased to two more teams they lost that weekend. We replaced them with Purdue. The following weekend we have St. Joe's coming in, then Central Arkansas the next weekend. We really don't have anything set up mid-week because we want to wait to see what our SEC schedule looks like before doing anything mid-week."
Anything going on with the 2014 schedule?
"We have a home and home set with Arizona. It's one of those rare opportunities where we are scheduling a non-conference game away from Dudy Noble. We are looking at playing a series out there, then they will return the series the following year. We did the same thing with them in 2005 and 2006."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.