With its home game against Alabama this coming Saturday, Mississippi State football begins the four-game countdown to the end of the Jackie Wayne Sherrill era, an era that has seen many great accomplishments.
His accomplishments will be mentioned in another Monday Morning Coffee Break. What I want to write about today is the ramifications of those accomplishments.
While Coach Sherrill will very likely not end his last season on a winning note, as so many of us wish for him, he will undoubtedly go out with a legacy that will benefit MSU football for years to come: The belief by MSU fans, and more importantly, coaches, pro and college alike, that MSU football can win and win big in the toughest conference in America, the Southeastern Conference.
That's one of the reasons MSU Athletic Director Larry Templeton has been smiling so much lately as he checks the fax machine, receives phones calls and picks up his mail.
Coaches from far and wide have contacted Templeton via every source you can imagine. And when I say coaches, I am referring to coaches who are in the pro and college ranks. Coaches who are currently successful head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and regular assistant coaches at colleges in major D-I conferences.
Thanks to Coach Sherrill, Templeton is sifting through 100+ resumes, instead of making phone calls asking for resumes.
While Templeton goes through those resumes figuring out which ones fit what he is looking for in a head coach, MSU fans, also thanks to Coach Sherrill, mention just about every name of successful coaches that they can think of. And, based on what I'm hearing, a large number of those coaches have expressed an interest in the MSU vacancy.
Without a doubt, there is reason for excitement as the MSU football program prepares for a new era. However, even if Templeton picks a coach that excites the entire MSU fanbase, consistently winning in the SEC will not be easy.
The next coach will need the help of everyone of you because he will be fighting an uphill battle in more ways that you can imagine. If you don't believe me, continue reading.
First: The budget.
MSU's athletic department budget is approximately $23 million. That's not small change, folks. But consider who MSU is competing against. Florida's expenses, alone, are $58 million. Then you have Tennessee, which has a budget of $55 million, $21 million of it going to their football program. Then, you have seven other SEC teams with budgets in the $40 to $45 million range. Only two SEC schools, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, $26.3 and $30 million respectively, come close to MSU's budget.
Second: MSU's booster club giving.
The Bulldog Club, MSU's athletic booster club, generated approximately 4 million dollars last year. Not bad until you consider Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, three teams MSU fans want the next head coach to compete against and compete against on a consistent basis, generated $25 million, $14 million and $13 million from their booster clubs during the same one-year period.
Heck, some MSU fans complain about paying a $10 parking fee. What if you had to pay, in addition to your ticket price, a $400 per seat fee directly to MSU to sit between the lower level 25 yard lines? And I'm not talking about paying this money to the Bulldog Club but to MSU for tickets not assigned to the Bulldog Club or any other organization. Well, that's what LSU has just told their fans they will have to do starting next season. In fact, the $400 is the high side. LSU will also charge a per seat fee for other unassigned prime time seats. These contributions alone are expected to generate over $7 million in added revenue, which will push their budget to approximately $48 million. Add those dollars to a ticket price of $36, LSU's ticket price next season and you see that winning isn't cheap, folks.
Third: Stadium Capacity.
MSU recently expanded their stadium to 55,082, which puts them 50th in the nation among the 117 D-1A colleges. Not bad. But when you consider MSU is competing against the eleven SEC schools, then it's not so good. Why? Because MSU's stadium capacity puts it 11th in the SEC, ahead of Vanderbilt's 39,773. Seven SEC schools' stadiums hold between 104,000 and 80,000 fans. Three other SEC schools have stadiums that hold between 60,580 and 67,606.
Fourth: Non-stadium football facilities additions.
LSU is building a new $15 million football operations center at the team's practice facility. Ole Miss is in the process of building a new indoor facility that will cost in the $19 million range. Auburn, in January 2002, opened the doors to its new $2.7 million, 14,000 square foot James T. Tatum, Jr., Strength and Conditioning Center. Alabama is currently expanding its Strength and Conditioning Center by 30,000 square feet.
It comes down to the fact that whoever the next coach is, consistent success will be very difficult based on the above limitations, but, based on Coach Sherrill's success during his 13-year tenure, possible.
While the football program begins a new era next year, the MSU basketball program is beinning the 6th year of the Rick Stansbury era, an era that has really heated up the past two years with back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids and back-to-back SEC Tournament Championship game appearances.
Despite only returning one starter and three reserves from last year's team, the basketball preseason honors are rolling in for this year's team.
Surprisingly, MSU is picked to win the West by the Sporting News. Other publications such as Basketball News, Athlon Sports, Street and Smith's, Lindy's, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and the SEC Media predicted the 'Dogs to finish either 2nd or 3rd in the West. Lindy's and Athlon's, the two publications that predicted NCAA Tournament bid teams, both chose MSU to make the tournament.
1st Team All-SEC: Street and Smith's, Blue Ribbon.
2nd Team All-SEC: Athlon's, Basketball News, Sporting News, Lindy's, SEC Media.
Most Underrated: Sporting News.
Best Shooter: Street and Smith's.
1st Team All-SEC: Basketball News, Sporting News, Lindy's.
2nd Team All-SEC: SEC Media.
3rd Team All-SEC: Street and Smith's.
Naismith Player of the Year Candidate.
Best Power Forward in Nation: Sporting News (4th) and Lindy's (7th).
Newcomer of the Year: Lindy's, Street and Smith's, Blue Ribbon.
Top Transfers: Basketball News.
Top Transfers: Basketball News.
These preseason honors show how far MSU basketball has come during the Rick Stansbury era.
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 email@example.com.