Although a Monday afternoon press conference will fill in the details, at least the details Coach Sherrill and MSU Athletic Director Larry Templeton wish to convey to the media about Coach Sherrill's retirement, the past two-plus seasons of losing and personal tragedies in his life are probably the real culprits in the somewhat surprising end to one of college football's most well-known and controversial coaches.
Reaching heights unparalleled in Mississippi State football history during his first 10 years at MSU when he took a MSU program that had been one of the SEC doormats for most of its time in the SEC to 6 bowl games, 1 SEC West title, 7 winning seasons and 4 final AP top-25 rankings, Coach Sherrill's success at the helm of the MSU football program came to an abrupt halt with just 8 wins during the past 2+ years.
After taking his 1998 team to the SEC Championship Game, Coach Sherrill seemed to be on the verge of doing what many thought to be the impossible, making MSU a consistent winner in the SEC.
1999 and 2000 only enhanced that belief with 18 wins in 24 games and bowl games in both years. However, despite high expectations for the 2001 season, the spell Coach Sherrill seem to have over the rest of the college football world came to a halt with a 3-8 season.
Most MSU fans were not ready to give up on Coach Sherrill at that point. Then came the 2002 season and another 3-win season. The media and more and more MSU fans started questioning whether Coach Sherrill could once again win in the SEC, the most competitive conference in college football.
Always confident that he could bring the program back to where it was during his first 10 years at MSU, Coach Sherrill also knew changes had to be made to get that done, so he replaced 5 of his assistant coaches at the conclusion of the 2002 season, including both coordinators. Known as a man who is very loyal to his coaches, this wasn't an easy thing for him to do, especially when two of those coaches, Craig Stump and John Hendrick, were former players of his.
While the changes were painful to make, they seemed to bring renewed energy to Coach Sherrill and his program. Then came the personal tragedies during the winter. His mother and brother both passed away and his wife, Peggy, was discovered to have cancer and had to have an operation. Plus, he once again had an NCAA investigation cloud hanging over his football program. Add those things to two losing season and another season that has started out with 2 wins in the first 7 games and the end seemed near.
Coach Sherrill, by publicly announcing his pending retirement through the email to the Bulldog family, confirmed that end.
While his retirement will end his football career not only at MSU but probably college football in general, it will not put an end to the many wonderful memories he has left all Bulldog fans. Nor will his retirement take away the improvements his career at MSU has brought to the MSU football program; improvements such as a larger stadium, high attendance figures, record season ticket sales, high expectations by the MSU fanbase, greater television exposure, a higher athletic department budget and surely not the least, a talented but inexperienced team that will win a lot of ballgames for whomever the next MSU coach is.
With two home games left on the schedule against the two teams Coach Sherrill loves to defeat the most, his alma mater Alabama and MSU's in-state rival Mississippi, MSU fans will have an opportunity to show their appreciation to one of the greatest football coaches in MSU history and all those wonderful memories that will be with us the rest of our lives by making sure both of those games are sellouts. Anything less would be an insult to Coach Sherrill and those memories.
Have a great Bulldog week!
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.