Great news for MSU basketball, Mario Austin has decided to return to school and play his junior season at MSU. I haven't talked to Mario so I don't know what his reason was for coming back. However, Todd Kelly, the Clarion-Ledger's MSU beat writer, talked to one of Mario's roommates, Timmy Bowers, and Timmy said Mario realized that he was not going to be a top-20 first round draft pick, so he decided to come back to school. Look for record season ticket sales and attendance next season along with extremely high expectations for MSU basketball team.
MSU baseball traveled to Auburn this past weekend, losing two of three to the Tigers. MSU pitching, for the first time this season, allowed double digit runs in a game. Sunday's game saw the MSU pitchers get pounded for 19 runs. Also, uncharacteristically, the MSU defense committed 10 errors. Prior to the weekend, the Bulldogs had committed a total of 41 errors in 35 games.
MSU plays Vanderbilt in Nashville next week. Prior to heading to Nashville, they will play two home games against UAB (Tuesday, 6:30) and West Alabama (Wednesday, 6:30). The West Alabama game is a makeup game. According to MSU baseball radio play-by-play announcer, Jim Ellis, if you are a season ticket holder all you have to do is bring any season ticket to get into the West Alabama game.
There has been a lot of discussion about the MSU baseball program on my message board this past week. It appears a few folks are disappointed in the MSU baseball program over the past couple of decades. One poster has even called the program "average." Although he also called it one of the "top programs" in another post, I'll disregard the inconsistencies in his posts and just talk about MSU baseball since Ron Polk took over in 1976.
Prior to the arrival of Ron Polk, MSU baseball made 6 NCAA post-season appearances, one of which led to a College World Series berth. Basically, what MSU baseball was during those years was a sport where a few MSU fans came out to enjoy what was a great social event. It wasn't a sport's program that had significant success on the national scene at that time.
Once Polk arrived on the scene, MSU baseball began to change. The team started winning big-time and the fans started coming out in droves. After just three years on the job, a Ron Polk-coached MSU team earned its first NCAA post-season appearance. Including that appearance, MSU appeared in NCAA post-season play 17 times, 5 of which led to College World Series appearances, in a 22-year period. After appearing in NCAA post-season just 6 times in the previous 24 years, MSU, under Polk's guidance (and McMahon's two years), saw NCAA post-season play in 17 of the 24 years they coached MSU. MSU baseball was now a national power.
While MSU baseball was making noise in the NCAA, it was also earning SEC "hardware" as well. MSU won 4 overall SEC Championships (79-85-87-89) and 4 SEC Tournament Championships (79-85-87-90) during the period from 1976 through 1999.
While 4 overall SEC Championships doesn't sound like a lot in 24 years, only two SEC teams have earned more, LSU with 7 and Florida with 6, during this same period.
Now I realize the ultimate achievement, the national championship, has eluded Ron Polk's (and McMahon's) MSU teams. However, just because MSU baseball hasn't won the championship doesn't mean the program has not been successful. A national championship is one of the most difficult things to win in college baseball. It has eluded all but two SEC teams, LSU and Georgia. In fact, during the 24 years from 1976-1999 only 12 different teams have won it all.
Most of you will find this surprising, but during Coach Polk's reign at MSU, teams from only 8 different states have won national championships. Of those 8 states, 21 of the 24 championships have been by teams from 5 different states, Louisiana (4, all LSU), California (8), Florida (3, all Miami), Arizona (5) and Texas (1). As you can see, other than Louisiana, all of those teams had something in common, a huge population base and/or great weather. LSU is the one enigma, but then they had something none of the others had, Skip Bertman, possibly the greatest baseball coach in the history of college baseball. As a comparison, the state of Mississippi has good, but not great, weather and a tiny population base from which MSU can recruit from. And add to that fact when Coach Polk got to MSU, the Mississippi high school baseball programs were almost nothing compared to baseball programs in other states. Plus, in the early going, MSU's Ron Polk had to even fight to get his own conference to acknowledge that baseball was more than a club sport.
I realize some of you might say, based on the above facts, 'then MSU needed to recruit nationally'. Coach Polk did, at least to the extent the smallest budget in the SEC would allow. Some of you might say to that, 'everybody knows about MSU baseball, it has nothing to do with money. We have great facilities (Polk was the driving force in getting our current facilities built) and a great fan base'. Sorry to say, that was not true at first. Our stadium, prior to the new stadium been built, looked its best when fans were in the seats covering up the rotting wooden bleachers and most folks, outside of the SEC, don't know the difference between MSU and Ole Miss. If you doubt that, then think back to the times we have discussed on my message board about the national media mixing up MSU and Ole Miss in an article. To get the MSU name out there, you have to go to the players and tell them about MSU. However, you still have to get the players on campus. The problem is MSU's coaches only had so much recruiting money (airfare is not cheap, folks) to do that with. If it hadn't been for the extremely hard work of Ron Polk participating as a guest speaker at a lot of baseball clinics throughout the nation and authoring a book about baseball, then MSU baseball would probably still be exactly what it was before he got here, a sport that was a great social event for a few MSU fans to attend during the spring.
When you add all that together, you then realize it is truly amazing what MSU baseball has accomplished the past two-plus decades under Coach Polk and, to a lesser extent, Coach McMahon.
MSU baseball: an "average" program, no; an "elite" program, no. What MSU baseball is is a program that has bordered on greatness the past two-plus decades while always having to play behind the eight ball due to limited resources.
Gene's Page will be adding its own chat page within the next few days. I will begin having personal chat sessions with you guys. I also hope to have college and recruiting experts within TheInsiders network in the chat room at various times throughout the year.
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS
Mary Ann has recently added all of the MSU summer sports camps to the calendar. If you have a son or daughter who would like to attend a camp, check out the Gene's Page calendar for details.
She has also added all of the spring and summer Bulldog Celebration and other MSU events to the calendar that she has been notified of. If you don't see yours on the calendar, please email her at the email address listed below.
If you have a MSU related event coming up and you don't see it listed on the Gene's Page calendar, email Mary Ann your information and she will post it on the calendar. We purchased the calendar for your use, so please don't hesitate using it. Mary Ann's email address is email@example.com.
Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.
Have a great Bulldog week!
Archived Monday Morning Coffee Break Articles:
April 8, 2002
April 1, 2002
March 25, 2002
March 4, 2002
Feb. 25, 2002
Feb. 18, 2002
Feb. 11, 2002
Feb. 4, 2002
Jan. 28, 2002
Jan. 21, 2002
Jan. 14, 2002
Jan. 7, 2002
Dec. 31, 2001
Dec. 24, 2001
Dec. 17, 2001
Dec. 10, 2001
Dec. 3, 2001
Nov. 26, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 12, 2001
Nov. 7, 2001
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.