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MSU’s Ray Keeping An Eye On His School’s APR

In a Q&A session with The Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s Brandon Marcello, new Mississippi State hoops coach Rick Ray admits that the wave of defections experienced by State since Rick Stansbury’s “retirement” have him paying close attention to the program’s APR scores:

“I think it’s very important, especially with the stiffer penalties the NCAA has instituted because of the APR.  But I think (athletic director) Scott (Stricklin) is right on with the fact that we probably are going to have a hit this year.  But, once again, as far as the attrition, it’s guys that already made the decision before I even got here — like Renardo Sidney and (Arnett) Moultrie.  Those guys I had nothing to do with.

All we can do is ask those guys like Arnett and Dee (Bost) is to try to help out the university by doing what they’re supposed to do academically before they leave here.  Most of those guys have been receptive and good about it.  To me, at the end of the day, getting an education at Mississippi State helps those guys more than it helps me.”

Maybe so, but there’s no question that if all those people departing leave in good academic standing, it will help MSU avoid taking a double hit in the Academic Progress Reports.  Schools are hurt by early defections.  They’re hurt more by early defectors who don’t go to class.

As for the man he’s replacing, Ray says he’s not yet met with Stansbury.  “I haven’t had the chance to.  I’ve reached out to him a couple of times and, obviously, with my schedule I haven’t had the opportunity, but I look forward to that.”


All coaches say that.  Hardly any of them ever mean it.

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Stansbury: ‘My Decision’ To Step Down At Mississippi State

Rick Stansbury said Thursday it was his decision to step down as Mississippi State’s basketball coach after 14 seasons at the helm.

Stansbury said he met with athletic director Scott Stricklin on Wednesday morning before making the decision.

“We both agreed to this,” Stansbury said, according to Brad Locke of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Stansbury, who is married and the father of three children, said the opportunity to spend more time with his family was a factor in his decision.

“It’s time in my life to start a new chapter, to step away from coaching,” Stansbury said. “I’m ready for it.”

Stricklin has to be ready to find a new basketball coach at Mississippi State.

“He’ll get a coach better than me,” Stansbury said.

That will be easier said than done. Stansbury’s tenure at Mississippi State was largely successful. He compiled a 293-165 record in 14 years and took the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament six times.

Of course, Mississippi State’s late-season collapse kept the Bulldogs from reaching the NCAA tournament for a seventh time under Stansbury. He accepted blame for that disappointment.

“I’m not throwing anybody under the bus,” Stansbury said. “Any time a team is not successful, the coach is responsible.”

Stansbury is responsible for plenty of success, too.

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Ole Miss Returns 2,000 Egg Bowl Tickets To MSU

It looks like Ole Miss fans have got a bad feeling about this year’s Egg Bowl game. 

After two straight losses to arch-rival Mississippi State — followed by two straight years of Dan Mullen’s flapping gums — many Rebel fans have chosen to watch this year’s UM-MSU game on television.  It was announced yesterday that Ole Miss has returned about 2,000 of the 6,000 Egg Bowl tickets the school had initially requested from State.

In other words, 4,000 UM fans have bought tickets for this year’s showdown in Starkville.  For comparison, about 6,000 Bulldog fans bought tickets to the game in Oxford last year.

“I appreciate them letting us know this early in advance so we can get them ou tin the marketplace,” MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin said.  “We all work well together to take care of our fans.”

Granted, some fans might choose to buy tickets through secondary vendors or from gameday scalpers, but this appears to be yet another sign that State fans feel a lot better about the state of their program than Ole Miss fans do.

(Sidenote — MSU also announced that South Carolina returned about 2,500 of the 5,000 tickets they received for this year’s MSU-USC game, but we’ll cut Cock fans some slack.  There’s a big difference between the two-hour drive from Oxford to Starkville and the eight-hour drive from Columbia to Starkville.)

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SEC Headlines – 5/9/11 Part One

1.  This writer believes the real spirit of Alabamians is shining through after recent tornadoes.

2.  In case you missed it, Tony Barnhart of penned a response to the US Justice Department regarding the BCS.  Good stuff.

3.  MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin — now a full year into his job — says Minnesota’s new stadium provided inspiration for drawings of a proposed re-working of Davis-Wade Stadium.

4.  Dan Mullen will be making 12 stops on this year’s Road Dawgs speaking tour.

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MSU’s Stricklin Noncommittal On Stansbury’s Return

In a lengthy Q&A with Brandon Marcello of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin danced around a question about Rick Stansbury’s job security.

“We’ve had a good week but obviously we’ve had a lot of challenges, too.  The important thing is that we’ve got to make sure those challenges aren’t there going forward.  Rick and I talk a lot, just like all of our coaches.  I’ll sit down with him at the end of the year.  We’ll figure out the direction we need to go, what we’re doing and what the coach’s thoughts are with that.  I want to hear what Rick has to say there.  Rick’s had a lot of success here, you know?  Heck, even in a down year we’re finishing second in our division.”

So will he be back?

“We evaluate everything at the end of the year.  Rick’s done a lot of good things here.  We’ve got to make sure the challenges we had this year are addressed.”

Stricklin won’t say it, but it sounds like you can expect Stansbury to return despite a tumultuous season and declining ticket sales.  However, Stansbury figures to be on the hot seat entering 2011-12.

For more info on MSU’s possible stadium expansion in football and the ongoing Battle of the Cowbell, click here. 

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SEC Headlines – 3/7/11 Part Four

1.  SEC basketball coaches talked about the league’s tournament on today’s teleconference with the media.

2.  Alabama and Georgia will get one more shot earn an NCAA Tournament bid this week in Atlanta.

3.  Auburn’s Pro Day workouts will be carried on the internet by ESPN and on television by NFL Network.

4.  Take a look at this breakdown of Arkansas’ four-game improvement in the win column this year and I think you can figure out that the author probably isn’t a pro-John Pelphrey guy.

5.  Some folks can’t understand Ole Miss AD Pete Boone’s decision to show his personality on Twitter.

6.  MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin says he doesn’t want “another rehashing” of his school’s handling of the Cam Newton situation.

7.  The SEC Tournament bracket does Georgia no favors.

8.  SEC associate commissioner Gregory Sankey will recuse himself from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions when Tennessee’s case comes up in June.

9.  Bruce Pearl is “still pretty burned” from yesterday’s loss to Kentucky.

10.  Kenny Gabriel (Auburn) and Ravern Johnson (MSU) were named the SEC’s Co-Players of the Week.  (Kentucky’s Brandon Knight won Freshman of the Week honors again.)

11.  Last season, Auburn, LSU and Florida were the SEC’s best 4th Quarter football teams… Georgia, Tennessee and Vanderbilt were the worst.

12.  Finally, when it comes to SEC championship events — like this week’s basketball tournament — expect to see more mentions for Macy’s.

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SEC Deciding On Cowbell Fines For MSU

Last spring, the SEC allowed Missisippi State fans to keep their cowbells… so long as those fans followed some league-crafted guidelines on when the bells could be used.

As expected, MSU fans ignored the rules and rang their bells during play in order to ramp up noise when the Dogs’ opponents had the football.  For that reason, Mike Slive was forced to make a new threat, warning that the bells might be outlawed altogether in 2011 if things weren’t corrected.  Only when daddy threatened to take away their toys did State fans begin to ring wisely.

As a result, athletic director Scott Stricklin said that he was told by Slive that MSU fans had showed “marked improvement” in cowbell usage in November.  Huzzah!

But Slive is still reviewing the violations from the first part of the season in order to determine what type of fine State will be handed.  According to last spring’s plan, MSU was to be penalized $5,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second violation, and $50,000 for a third infraction.

According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Slive is expected to hand down the fines before the end of the month.

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Mississippi State An Easier Sell Post-Mullen

For a second, let’s play “Worst Case Scenario” with Mississippi State fans.  Let’s say that Florida (or Miami) does woo Dan Mullen away from the cacophony of cowbells in Starkville.

As bad as that news might be, there could be a sliver of positivity mixed in amongst the pain — The MSU job is a better job now because of Mullen.

Sylvester Croom was a good man.  He led the Bulldogs to an 8-win season and a Liberty Bowl berth.  But even at his height, Croom never connected with the fanbase as Mullen has.  Mullen has filled the stands around Scott Field.  His personality has earned him facetime and name recognition on ESPN.  As he has become a big name at State, State’s own name has improved as result.

Should Mullen leave, Scott Stricklin will now have a foundation to point to as he attempts to hook another coach for the Bulldogs:

* MSU is eyeing stadium expansion and facility upgrades

* An excited, ticket-buying, bell-ringing fanbase makes the former necessary… and new SEC television contracts make the latter and the former possible

* MSU can out-gun the state’s flagship school in back-to-back seasons on the football field

* A good recruiter can go head-to-head with that flagship school and ink Top 25 classes in February

Make no mistake, State would be much better off if Mullen simply put down roots and stayed in Starkville.  The school has some successes to sell at this point, but sustained success would make the sell that much easier.

But if Mullen does leave, Stricklin will have an easier time selling MSU to a new coach thanks to what Mullen has accomplished in his first two seasons.

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MSU Selected To Play In Gator Bowl Jan. 1; To Face Michigan

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State director of athletics Scott Stricklin and head football coach Dan Mullen accepted an invitation to the 2011 Gator Bowl from Gator Bowl Executive Director Rick Catlett and Gator Bowl Association Executive Committee Chairman Stephen Tremel.

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MSU Working On A New Deal For Mullen

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin says he is working on a new four-year deal to keep Dan Mullen in Starkville.  Stricklin told The SDN Bulldog Blog that State will be “smart and aggressive” in its efforts to hang on to its coach.

“The normal protocol for something like this and the way we’ve done it in the past is to rip up the old contract and sign a brand new four-year deal.”

State law in Mississippi limits contracts with state employees to four years at the maximum.  Stricklin also said that he “anticipated a raise in Mullen’s annual salary.”

Mullen will make a nice chunk of change for his 2010 work already. 

“He’s going to have fairly significant bonuses this year,” Stricklin told The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.  “Which is good; I like that.  I think it’s healthy to have good incentives built into your contract.”

State will not reveal what Mullen’s bonuses are because they say that money comes from private money.  (Something to keep in mind whenever you/we look at the Department of Education’s financial numbers.)

Stricklin doesn’t believe Mullen will stay or leave based upon cash.  “I’m not someone who thinks that finances are ever going to be a part of a decision on whether a coach stays or not.  I think we’ve got a lot to offer as a university, and we’ve got access to talent — we’re in the best league in the country.  We have great facilities, we’re in the process of making them better.  We’ve got great support for our coaches and student-athletes.”

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a coach leave Mississippi State because they weren’t being paid enough, and I doubt there ever will be.”

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