ESPN Courting State For Games, Fall Practice

During Thursday evening's Central Mississippi Extravaganza, director of athletics Larry Templeton told the crowd at the Mississippi Coliseum that Mississippi State football is still very much in TV minds in 2005. Specifically of ESPN, which has approached MSU with some intriguing offers.

"ESPN has inquired about moving games in 2006 and 2007," Templeton said. "They want to move our opener in both seasons."

Asked afterwards for more information by reporters, Templeton declined to say who the prospective opponent or opponents in those games would be. "There are a lot of details, we don't know if it will all work out," he cautioned. But Templeton did indicate that Mississippi State is very interested in what the cable sports network is proposing and that discussions will continue.

If a deal is worked out for 2006 it would certainly change the tentative schedule, which has Mississippi State opening at Alabama-Birmingham in the third game of the inter-conference contract. Asked if ESPN's arranging another opener against another non-conference opponent would solve the problem of securing a 12th game in 2006, Templeton grinned. "What makes you think there's a problem with getting a 12th game?!" Starting next fall all Division I-A programs can schedule a dozen regular-season games.

The tentative 2006 slate lists just 11 opponents for now, with UAB, Tulane, and Memphis as the three non-SEC games. But Mississippi State and West Virginia have also agreed to a two-year series that was originally supposed to start next fall. This may be delayed to 2007, unless it is the game ESPN is working on scheduling for the two schools.

The Mississippi State-Memphis rivalry paused in 2004, the first break in the series in three decades.

Templeton also told the audience that ESPN wants to come to the MSU campus even before the season, to show a Bulldog practice sometime in August.

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