Coach For a Day, Supporter For Life

Long-time Mississippi State supporter Steve Brandon thought he was going to bid on one of the two trips to next season's MSU-Florida football game. Steve and his wife, Patsy Fowlkes, are fans, and like with any fan traveling with the team to a game like Florida is special. But something happened on the way to the auction. Steve went from bidding on the trip to bidding to be coach for a day.

He wound up not only bidding on being one of the two Maroon-White guest football coaches but actually winning that privilege. But it appears even Steve was surprised when he was announced as one of the two successful bidders.

"Very honestly, I won't say it was buyer's regret, it was more like 'oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into,' " said Steve with a slight laugh. "I think that was more due to not knowing what to expect. That is some of my trepidation. If I knew what was going to happen, I would be more comfortable, but I don't."

He does know the importance of winning, though. One of last year's guest coaches offered advice about winning.

"I asked Bud Thompson for some advice because he did this same thing last year," said Steve. "Bud's first response was 'win at all costs'. So, I may have to do whatever it takes (laugh)."

But as of now, winning is taking a backseat to one other aspect of his one-day job.

"My biggest concern is the motivational speech," said Steve. "And as I understand it there are three of them, one at practice, one at the beginning of the game and one at halftime. I've been working harder on these three five minutes pieces than I have on any presentation that I have ever done. And I do a lot of speeches."

The speeches, while important, are just one of many things that Steve will be involved in with the football team over the next five days.

"I'm observing practice on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday morning at 10 o'clock we have the player draft," said Steve. "Friday afternoon we will break into Maroon and White practices. Saturday, I will participate in every typical gameday event, pregame and postgame."

And like any new coach, Steve will be hiring his own staff. Ok, maybe not staff, but the rules of the bid allow him to bring an assistant coach of his own choice with him. He has chosen long-time friend Dean Wingo as that assistant coach.

"We are allowed to bring one assistant coach with us and I'm bringing Dean Wingo, who is from Collierville, Tennessee, as my assistant coach," said Steve. "He travels with us on many of the trips we go on to follow the Bulldogs."

And I'm sure during those many trips, both men have discussed football strategy, something that should come in handy during Saturday's game.

"Just like the head coach does during the game I will be listening to the suggestions of the offensive and defensive coordinators, however, I am not going to just be a figure-head," said Steve with a slight twinkle in his eye. "I won't just run every play they tell me to run."

As for any last words leading up to the 5 pm Maroon-White Spring Game, Steve was short and right to the point.

"I desperately want to win," said Steve.

Whether he wins or the clock simply runs out of time before his team can score the winning points, Steve has an idea what this unique experience will mean to him for the remainder of his life.

"Bud Thompson said coaching in the game was very special and something that he will not forget for the rest of his life," said Steve.

And Mississippi State can say the same about Steve Brandon and his wife Patsy Fowlkes, both graduates of Mississippi State. Both have been recognized by the university for their donations that led to the renovation and naming of Fowlkes Auditorium, completion of the women's basketball locker room and a scholarship endowment. Fowlkes Auditorium was named in honor or Patsy's dad, Bill Fowlkes, and two of her uncles, Hal and Tom Fowlkes, all of whom graduated from Mississippi State in the 1930s and 1940s and who became strong supporters of their alma mater. They have also supported academics just as strongly as they have athletics, probably moreso.

While Saturday is in reality nothing more than a spring game, Mississippi State University itself is deeply embedded in Steve and his wife's hearts.

"We want to do everything we can do personally, including giving as much as possible, as a way to give back for all that our Mississippi State education has done for us throughout our careers," said Steve, who, along with his wife, are members of the MSU Foundation in addition to the Bulldog Foundation and the Bulldog Club. "And that involvement has been very rewarding to us, not so much as to what we receive but the rewards of knowing we are doing what we can to help Mississippi State, both athletically and academically."

The Maroon-White Spring Game will kick off on Saturday at 5 p.m., and will be televised on tape delay by CSS. The first airing of the broadcast will be Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., and subsequent rebroadcasts will be announced later. Those replays will include enhanced coverage, with interviews from players and coaches.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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