By Todd Vinyard
A slap on the hand hurts and isn’t something you want to have happen often, but it is not like having it cut off.
That is the sense of relief combined with exoneration Tupelo area Mississippi State fans were feeling one day after the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced the school will be on one year’s probation, but will not lose television or bowl privileges.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a situation like that, and while I am not pleased with probation it seems to be a fair ruling given the allegations,” Lee County Mississippi State Alumni Association President John Bryson said. “It is time to move on.”
A reduction of next year’s scholarships from 25 to 12, total scholarships down to 80 from 85, and expesne-paid recruiting visits cut from 56 to 42 is all the NCAA dished out for four violations covering 11 incidents.
MSU received the lightest penalties of the three Southeastern Conference Western Division teams (State, Ole Miss and Alabama) currently on NCAA probation.
NCAA Committee on Infractions Chair David Swank said the reason for the lighter penalties is the number of violations, the number of people involved in the violations and the individuals involved in the violations.
Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill was not named in any of the violations.
While the sanctions send a clear and dramatic warning, they will not cripple the school financially, Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias said.
“I wish there were not any accidents on the highway, but if you travel the highway sometimes accidents occur,” he said at a press conference Thursday. “People even know where they occur from time to time. You try to find a way to avoid any kind of repeat. You’re not satisfied, but you’re awfully glad when the people who’ve been affected by an accident recover. We’re headed for a full recovery.”
Part of that full recovery involved disassociation from the school with a recruiting intern (Boris Banks) and booster (Steven Wells) involved in the violations. The school is also making available a nine page booklet detailing what supporters can and can’t do under NCAA guidelines.
“I am glad to see that information being made available,” said Steve Taylor of Tupelo, a 1977 MSU grad who is active on the school’s national alumni association board. “It is something every school is having to do.”
Fans agree it is time to look ahead to next season and improving on the team’s 3-8 record.
“We lost some scholarships, but since we can still go to bowls nothing has changed as far as the fans are concerned,” said Ashley Strope, a 1995 State graduate who teaches at Church Street Elementary.