"I spent the first five years of Jackie's career defending when he was going to leave. Everybody thought he was a short-termer, that he wasn't coming here for a long-term commitment. One of you wrote in your paper this weekend, there have been 38 other head football coaches that have passed through the 11 SEC schools since Mississippi State hired a football coach.
"I have gotten to know this individual as a very special friend. I can tell you this, when he talked about defending the players, he was a player coach.
"I have a lot of thoughts about what to say today about him. I said some things Friday in a prepared statement. Over the weekend, after he told our team Friday afternoon, he's had a number of conversations and letters and notes. Friday night, as he and I sat in Columbus, Georgia and talked about some things, he handed me a note and a poem that one of the players had given him. The guy does have feelings and it touched him in a special way.
"The poem said:
" 'I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
" 'I would rather walk one with me than just show me the way.
" 'The eye of a better pupil and more willing than the ear.
" 'Advice may be misleading, but examples are always clear.
" 'The very best of teachers are the ones who live their creed. For to see good put into action is what everyone needs.
" 'I can soon learn to do it if you let me see it done.
" 'I can watch you hand in motion, but your tongue too fast may run.
" 'The lectures you deliver may be very fine and true but I would rather get my lesson by observing what you do for I may misunderstand you and the fine advice you give, but there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
"He wrote, 'Coach, everything happens for a reason. On behalf of the 2003 team, I would like to thank you for showing me and this team how to make the right choices in life.'
"This morning I got a copy of an email that was written to Coach Friday night.
" 'I know all things must come to an end, but I always thought of you being at Mississippi State forever. I remember when I first sat in front of you in your office. I only wanted a chance to play football. That, you gave to me. I never knew that I would also learn how to become a man. You have been a great father to those of us who don't have one. You guided young people to places they never knew they could go. Coach, you stuck with me when everyone else wrote me off. You believed in me when I wanted to transfer. I feel the hurt that you are no longer with the program, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know you as a coach, a friend. And thanks for serving as my dad. As long as there is breath in my body, everyone that I come in contact with will know that. Who I am today is because of Coach Jackie Sherrill.'
Q and A with Larry Templeton:
Did it make it easier that Coach Sherrill came to you with this entire situation?
"Jackie talks about private moments with his players. To say that Jackie and I haven't been talking about where we are and where we are going is not correct. But, yeah, he caught me by surprised last Monday when he walked in and said, 'now is the time.' So, we moved forward from then. We discussed each day where we were and what we ought to do.
Do you feel confident about going out and hiring someone that can achieve similar success to Coach Sherrill's success?
"There is no question in my mind, with Jackie's help, we have shown that we can compete. I think our facilities are much better. I think the recruiting base in this state is much better. (Because of) having the opportunity to compete in the best athletic conference in America, this job will attract a lot of interest."
Talk about the coach you would like to hire?
"I think the president gave a good analysis of the individual we are looking for. I want to see what the opportunities are. I have several that I want to talk to. But, to be honest, we haven't done that, yet."
Have you already been contacted by people?
"Have I? Try Saturday morning. My Sunday School class had a name or two written on the board yesterday."
When is a realistic time frame to have a new coach in place?
"I'm not worried about the time table. I'm more interested in having the opportunity to get the best available person for this job. I respect the other institutions and I respect their coaches. It gives us a leg up to narrow what we want to do, but we are not going to interfere with anybody's current coach without permission."
What is the minimum experience the coach you will look for have to have?
"I think any person who has been in coaching. I respect the heck out of what some high school coaches do. There are some outstanding individuals that are high school coaches in this state, outstanding junior college coaches. So, to say what kind of experience, I think you look at the individual and his ability to manage and lead and put a program together."
Will any of the current MSU assistant coaches have an opportunity to apply for the job?
"My door is open if they want to talk. Certainly, there are some outstanding people on this staff. I'm not ruling out anybody."
There is going to be a lot of speculation about Mississippi State breaking ground in the SEC by hiring a black head coach. What is your response to that?
"I think there are a lot more qualified black coaches on the market now than there were 13 years ago when we looked. I wouldn't rule out anybody, but I can assure you that Mississippi State is going to hire the most qualified coach."
Are there any blacks on your list?
Because you will look at potential black head coaches, will that change your approach in hiring a new coach?
"I think it makes the pool that much more attractive. I think it is to our advantage. We are going to select the person that is best for the Mississippi State job. We enjoyed the ride of being a winner and we are going to get program back to that level. We know we can and we look forward to having that opportunity."
Have any of the people who have contacted you really intrigued you a lot?
"I haven't talked to anybody directly, so I can't comment on that. But there are some that intrigue me that are on my list. I look forward to visiting with them. I think there are some that are going to come to us now that we have completed today. I had one coach call and said he would like to talk to me after Jackie had an opportunity to have the press conference."
What intrigues you about some of the people who are on your list?
"There are some outstanding coaches, and there are some outstanding young coaches. There are some outstanding people."
How long have you carried around your list of football coaches?
"I have a couple of baseballs in my hip pocket but I'm not talking about Ron Polk leaving yet. A good AD is always on the lookout for quality coaches. You had better keep that list handy because you never know when you may need it."
What happens to all of your assistant football coaches during this transition?
"All of those coaches are under contract through June 30th. The (new) head coach will have an opportunity to hire his own staff. I would encourage them to look at this staff, because there are some outstanding football coaches on this staff."
Do you think, with Coach Sherrill's departure, that effecting the NCAA investigation?
"I can't comment because I haven't had a conversation with anyone within the NCAA in about three and a half weeks."
Dr. Lee said the NCAA investigation is coming to a close. What time frame can you give?
"The comments that we have had from the NCAA is they are wrapping up their initial investigation. They haven't told us a time table or even if or when we are getting a letter. I will have a conversation with them this week. I called them Friday to make them aware of what was taking place."
Would it help the entire process if you knew what the future holds in regard to the NCAA investigation?
"You would certainly rather not have to deal with that, but we aren't going to know that regardless. If we get a Letter of Allegations, we are talking about June or August of next year before they are going to hear the case."
The financial package you will offer the next coach, where will it put him among the other SEC football coaches?
"This staff right now is in the top half. We are certainly not going down. We are not going to be the highest, but we will be in the upper part."
Is it conceivable that you would have a press conference immediately after the season to announce the new head coach?
"The ideal time is before Christmas, so you would be in position to do the heavy official visits and recruiting in January. I certainly anticipate us meeting that time table, but to say we are going to have a press conference, I don't want to pin us down. But we also could have a press conference the day of the final game to introduce our new head coach."
How much can you talk to current head coaches and assistants during the season?
"I think it is going to be a little more difficult to have some dialogue with head coaches but I think most head coaches, from the looks of the messages that I have received, are promoting somebody, so if they are calling you recommending them, I don't think they are going to stop you from talking to an assistant."
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.