Presidents clear way for MSU to keep bells

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

DESTIN, Fla. – Mississippi State University’s cowbell has survived to ring for another football season.
By a near-unanimous vote on the final day of their spring business meetings, the Southeastern Conference presidents continued a Bulldogs’ tradition, but they did not grant a lifetime pass.
“Clearly, this is a one-year extension,” MSU President Mark Keenum said Friday. “They’re giving us another chance.”
MSU fans earned the second chance because of their compliance with the legislation enacted at these meetings a year ago.
It was then that conference presidents established guidelines for appropriate times for fans to ring the bells, times when they would be the least disruptive.
Fans were sometimes out of bounds with their bells in the first two home games last year. As a result, SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced Friday that MSU would be fined $30,000, a $5,000 fine for the first game and a $25,000 fine for the second game.
Every fine moving forward will be $50,000.
Slive, however, praised MSU fans for their turnaround in the final two home games, saying there was “significant, if not dramatic improvement.”
So the bells are back for the Bulldogs – but not without some drama and intrigue at the beach.
In the meeting of athletics directors on Wednesday, an initial vote on the cowbells was 10-2 against their use.
However, in a separate meeting, football coaches voted to allow the use of the bells, and in a joint meeting of the directors and coaches, the directors reversed themselves and sent forward to the presidents their recommendation to continue the bells.
Friday, the measure passed by a vote of 11-0-1 with Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones abstaining.
Jones said he knew before arriving in Destin that he would not take a position on the cowbell issue.
“Anything having to do with Ole Miss and Mississippi State can be very passionate for the people of Mississippi. Dr. Keenum and I agreed some time ago that when there were controversial issues involving our schools that we would try to stay out of each other’s business,” he said. “He knew I would abstain and stay out of this fight. I didn’t pretend that I could be objective with anything that had to do with competitive issues with Mississippi State.”
MSU officials worked diligently to educate fans on the appropriate times to ring the bells.
Further education will be required to avoid massive fines moving forward.
“The more we do this, the better we’ll become,” athletics director Scott Stricklin said.
Whether Keenum has to sweat through another vote of league presidents next year will depend on how MSU fans behave in their four SEC home games for the 2011 season.
“Now it’s going to be incumbent upon our fans to do the right thing and ring our bell responsibly and respect our tradition,” he said. “My colleagues recognized during the second half of the season that we could do the right thing. We demonstrated that. Our fans did the right thing, so we’ll have another chance.”
Contact Parrish Alford at (662) 678-1600 or parrish.alford@journalinc.com.