The mid-April release date was necessitated when one scheduled visitor, Jacksonville State, had to abort the non-conference contest with a schedule conflict of their own. Also, it was only last week that the day and date of the season finale with Ole Miss could be finalized to accommodate a regional telecast.
As announced over the winter, the 2007 opener will be on a Thursday night, August 30, when the Bulldogs host LSU. The original game date had been September 8 but both schools were able to accommodate ESPN's request for a weeknight contest to kick off the college football season. This is the second-straight year Mississippi State has debuted on Thursday night at home with a SEC game, after the 2006 opener with South Carolina.
Also, this season finds the ‘Battle for the Golden Egg' between Mississippi State and Ole Miss not only back at Scott Field but on a non-Saturday date for television. The 2007 Egg Bowl will be played on Friday afternoon, November 23, with a 12:00 kickoff for telecast. Templeton would not say on-record what network will carry the game but every indication from around the league is the '07 contest will be carried regionally on Lincoln Financial Sports.
The last three State-Ole Miss games were played on Saturday afternoons with no telecasts, and based on early indications of CBS plans for the last Saturday of November had the game not moved up to Friday there would be no chance of a telecast.
The ‘Egg Bowl' was played from 1998-2003 on Thanksgiving night for exclusive national telecast by ESPN, with the schools splitting those six games. The last time prior to this stretch when the rivalry was not played on Saturday was in 1971, also on Thanksgiving day, though through the 1930s weekday games between the rivals were typical.
The last time a Bulldog team played a regular-season Friday game was in 1965, at Tulane.
No game times are being officially listed other than the noon start for the Egg Bowl, though the ESPN opener will be in the evening timeslot. Times for SEC games are typically set two weeks in advance. And the Oct. 6 game with UAB has been designated for 2007 Homecoming.
Mississippi State had been scheduled to host Jacksonville State, also a lower-division program, on September 22, in the second year of a two-game contract with the Gamecocks. But JSU made an administrative error in reporting their 2007 slate to the Ohio Valley Conference, resulting in a league game on that same date. Attempts by JSU and OVC to free that date for the Mississippi State game, or to provide an alternate league team for MSU, failed. JSU had been guaranteed $300,000 for coming back to Starkville a second-straight season.
That date has been filled by Gardner-Webb, also a Division I-AA program. This will be the first-ever meeting of the SEC Bulldogs and the Big South member Running Bulldogs.
For 2007 Tennessee rotates onto State's schedule, replacing Georgia under the SEC's ‘5-1-2' rotation that began in 2002; in fact the five-year league cycle starts over this season with State hosting Tennessee and traveling to South Carolina. In 2008 the Bulldogs go to Knoxville while South Carolina is replaced by a home game with Vanderbilt.
Templeton confirmed that the same June 1 deadline for priority ticket orders as in the past will apply. He did not have the 2007 price immediately at hand. The last six-game home ticket, for the 2005 season, cost $175.
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR LARRY TEMPLETON COMMENTS:
Adding Gardner-Webb to the 2007 schedule: "We're excited and tickled to have them. As y'all followed the Jacksonville State saga, they just couldn't work out their conference conflict on Sept. 22. Last week they notified us that they weren't going to play the game, we'd tried to move one of their games and fit them in on November 3. It just didn't work. So in the process of looking for another game our number-one priority was to keep a I-AA game if we could, on Sept. 22. And we had some conversations with Division I teams and with other I-AAs that were trying to move some games on their schedules around. But there were probably only a dozen or so teams that had not filled up their schedules, so finding a team to come to us, on Sept. 22, was probably the most difficult part. Gardner-Webb met that criteria and we were able to work out an agreement with them to play the game."
G-W's payout for coming to State: "We're still negotiating some of the finer points. We're paying them considerably more than we were paying Jacksonville State (note: JSU had a $300,000 guarantee to play at MSU). I'm not going to share that figure until we get everything finalized."
How did the game come about: "There were so many people talking back-and-forth. We had the TV partners looking, we had the Conference office looking, we had the Division I athletic directors association looking. Because I wanted to see what all our options were. Gardner-Webb called me. We had sent out an e-mail, if you have an opening please call us. That's how it happened. At the same time I had gotten way down the road with another school that we thought was going to be able to move their date to November 3. So I was communicating with three schools at one time, really."
"JSU will have to pay their penalty, we will use that to offset the difference between what we were going to pay them and what we're going to have to pay Gardner-Webb. The penalty is $150,000. The contract is signed but I've committed a few other things to help them, with tickets and stuff like that. It's a one-year deal."
Could JSU make up this year's default in the future: "I've not had any discussions about a future game (with Jacksonville State)."
How close was State to scheduling Hawaii: "Their athletic director and I had three or four telephone calls and exchanged several e-mails. I felt that the Sept. 22 date was important, but because of who we were already playing—particularly the non-conference schedule of Tulane, UAB, and West Virginia—my priority was to stay with a I-AA this year if I possibly could. And I had told Hawaii's AD that. But that game would have had to be played on the 3rd of November, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go with that type of game in the middle of the wrap-up of conference race."
Moving the Egg Bowl: "I'm excited about playing the Egg Bowl on Friday. The conference came to us and asked us and Ole Miss if we'd move it to Friday for this year. Pete Boone and I both wanted to get it back on television. We went back to the conference and said we're willing to do it for two years if y'all will commit the game to television for two years. The conference came back to us last week and were able to make that commitment. We think it's important that we state that this year's game will be a noon game because we're both concerned about not going in conflict with the high school playoff system."
Who will telecast the game: "The conference hasn't made that announcement but I think you can read into what noon is. But, next year's game could be a different TV partner and it could be a different time."
Has the season ticket package been set: "Yes, as a matter of fact our season ticket information will be in the mail by this weekend. The other thing we're doing is we're going to put a lot of emphasis on a three-game package that includes LSU, Gardner-Webb, and UAB. Because the ticket demand for Tennessee, Alabama, and Ole Miss are all about the same large numbers. We felt we could do a separate package there."
Is this the last year of the UAB contract: "They come off (for 2008) and then they come back on. We took them off to get the Georgia Tech deal for 2008 and '09. We go to Atlanta in '08 and they come here in '09."
Other non-conference games: "Tulane is off (next year) but they come back on in 2011. Central Michigan is on in '08 and '09, Houston comes on in '09. The contract with Central Michigan hasn't been signed because we're extending it. We have confirmed the '08 and '09 but we're having further conversations about some more games. If it ends up two-for-one or four-for-four, I'm not sure yet. We open here with them in 2008. I'm trying to put Central Michigan here because we're going to Georgia Tech; the following year we go to Central Michigan and Georgia Tech comes here."
Does Tech replace West Virginia: "Yes, we're trying to have one major BCS opponent."
How do I-AA games figure into bowl eligibility: "As long as they qualify with the 90% scholarship limit it counts. And that was one of the concerns talking with some of these I-AAs, they have to meet a two-year average of scholarship numbers. Now you can play one I-AA every year (and count for bowl eligibility) as long as they meet the scholarship limit. They have certified the number of scholarships for the last two years. But you can play one I-AA and count it toward your bowl commitments."
2007 MISSISSIPPI STATE SCHEDULE -- Aug. 30 Louisiana State (Thursday, ESPN); Sept. 8 @ Tulane; Sept. 15 @ Auburn; Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb; Sept. 29 @ South Carolina; Oct. 6 Alabama-Birmingham (Homecoming); Oct. 13 Tennessee; Oct. 20 @ West Virginia; Oct. 27 @ Kentucky; Nov. 10 Alabama; Nov. 17 @ Arkansas (Little Rock); Nov. 23 Ole Miss (Friday).