Cameron Conner’s second-grade class at Rankin Elementary Schoo

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Cameron Conner’s second-grade class at Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo received special notes with important messages Monday morning:

To: Miss Conner’s class

Keep faith in your dreams!

Dontae Jones #32

To Miss Conner’s Class, Follow your dreams because they can come true! Mine did.

Bart Hyche #22

Stay in school. Go Dawgs!

Darryl Wilson #00

“Super D”

The notes, as virtually every Mississippian knows today, came from three members of Mississippi State University’s Final Four-bound Bulldogs basketball team.

The Bulldogs seized the day Sunday and made exhilarating history. The Bulldogs’ convincing victory over the University of Cincinnati propelled them into the mythic Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament next weekend at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.

The team’s triumph made an incomparable day for its players, coaches, the university, and for Mississippi. This Bulldogs team is the first from our state to reach the pinnacle of collegiate basketball. Its uniqueness will be savored by every Mississippi State supporter and every basketball fan. The team play, the competitive intensity, the coaching, and the sportsmanship have been on a level reached by few teams in any sport.

The 1996 Bulldogs’ success becomes sweeter when cast in the light of Mississippi State’s strong and proud basketball heritage. Comparisons with the great teams of the 1950’s and early 1960’s coached by Baldwyn native J.H. “Babe” McCarthy are inevitable and appropriate. The best of McCarthy’s teams won Southeastern Conference regular season titles (there was no tournament). Those teams had the right to go to the NCAA tournament as the SEC’s representative. Only one of those champions the 1963 team participated in the NCAA post-season because of segregation and Mississippi’s then-prevailing political leadership. The 1996 team (labeled by McCarthy-era All-America and former Boston Celtics star Bailey Howell as the best in MSU history) provides immense vindication for players, students and fans from that era who opposed the state’s position.

This week belongs to the 1996 Bulldogs and all who follow them. The past two weeks beginning with MSU’s victory over Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament in New Orleans have created an immeasurable amount of good will among Mississippians. Many who usually support other universities’ athletic teams have cast aside partisanship. Many who have never been basketball fans consume every word of news and every second of televised game action.

Some would say that too much is being made of the team and its roll through what’s known as “March Madness.” The better view is to see how much good can come of supporting student/athletes who stretch their personal limits in quest of a worthy goal.

In Bart Hyche’s words, “Follow your dreams, because they can come true!”

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