Jackie Sherrill's legacy."> Jackie Sherrill's legacy.">

Monday Morning Coffee Break

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01columnists/gswindoll.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="161"> Jackie Sherrill's legacy.

The long college coaching career of Jackie Sherrill is winding down to one last game, the Egg Bowl battle between in-state arch-rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

No matter what happens in that game, Coach Sherrill will wind up with a winning record against Ole Miss, a feat that hasn't been accomplished by an MSU head football coach since the legendary Allyn McKeen did it during his 1939-48 tenure.

However, if he loses that game he will wind up with 75 wins, 75 loses and 2 ties during his career at MSU. Included in that record will be a final three-year record of 8-27.

Some MSU fans will choose to remember those final three years and think the Mississippi State legacy of Jackie Sherrill has been tarnished beyond repair.

I don't see it that way. Oh, there's no doubt that I'm like every other Bulldog fan, I'm frustrated and very disappointed in the way things have gone the last three years. Who wouldn't be? But when I set aside these last three years, I see the bigger picture.

Coach Sherrill had 7 winning seasons, took 6 of his teams to bowl games (1 New Year's Day Bowl), won 1 SEC Western Division title and played in 1 SEC Championship Game. He also defeated powerhouse teams such as Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Texas and Texas A&M 17 times during those 13 seasons. He produced 13 of MSU's 36 football All-Americans. In 11 of the past 12 years, his teams have been awarded the AFCA Award for Outstanding Football Graduation Rates (70% or better graduation rate).

With so many accomplishments, what will be his legacy? Will it be decided by the last three seasons when his teams won just 8 or 9 games or will it be decided by his many positive accomplishments?

Before answering that question, let's look at some facts.

Before Coach Sherrill came along, coaches considered the Mississippi State head football coaching job a graveyard for future employment. When MSU was looking for a head football coach back in 1990, there weren't many takers. In fact, the ones that were contacted said thanks but no thanks. MSU, then took a chance on Coach Sherrill, a man who had been out of coaching for a couple of years after resigning from Texas A&M.

Coach Sherrill immediately won, going 7-5 in each of his first two seasons. Among those 14 victories were 8 SEC games, 1 less than the previous 9 seasons combined.

Things looked good for MSU football. However, after his initial success, Coach Sherrill saw 3 of his next 4 teams suffer losing seasons. Coach Sherrill then realized the SEC wasn't going to be as easy to win in as the other places he had coached, so he and his staff outworked other schools for players that brought MSU a four-year run (1997-2000) that caused MSU to go from a coaching graveyard to a place where a coach can have success.

First was 1997 and a 7-4 season. The next year brought MSU even more success. While that season's 8 wins were great by MSU standards, the 6 SEC wins put MSU in the SEC Championship Game where MSU lost late to eventual National Champion, the University of Tennessee. MSU went on to play in the New Year's Day Cotton Bowl. MSU followed that season with its second 10-win season in school history and another 6-2 record in the SEC. The following season saw MSU win 8 of 12 games, including an exciting 43-41 OT victory over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl.

Finally, it seemed MSU was on the verge of consistent success, something that had only happened once (1939-48) throughout the many years MSU had played football.

But Coach Sherrill and his teams were thrown for a loop. They, unexpectedly, started losing again.

The first season, 2001, saw MSU lose 8 of 11 games, 4 by 3 or less points. With all their success the previous four years, MSU fans, although not happy with the losses, were understanding. Then came 2002 and 9 losses in 12 games, most of the losses blowouts. With each blowout, the team seemed to lose a little more of the confidence that it had developed during the 1997-2000 run.

MSU fans became frustrated and realized something had to be done. Coach Sherrill, also knowing something had to be done, fired 5 of his assistant coaches, including his two coordinators, and brought in coaches he felt could help the players regain their lost confidence.

Three early season losses to Oregon, Tulane and Houston by a combined 18 points stopped any chance of that happening. However, after losing to LSU 41-6, his team won two straight. Then, once again, the blowouts started.

After finally realizing he didn't know what the answer was to his team's lack of success, Coach Sherrill announced his retirement prior to the Auburn game. He had said many times when it was time to retire, he would know it. He finally realized that time had come.

While some MSU fans think Coach Sherrill waited one or two years too late to announce his retirement, there are many college and pro coaches who have taken note of the success Jackie Sherrill has had at State and realize they can have that same kind of success.

That is Jackie Sherrill's true Mississippi State legacy!

Have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll

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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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