Granted, there are much more urgent issues facing Mississippi. But given the cultural significance of college football in this state, last week’s announcement that Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi will renew their football series in 2014 is worth a congratulatory nod.
Congratulations to Southern Miss for finally getting one of its instate SEC rivals to agree to start playing the Golden Eagles again. Congratulations to Mississippi State for getting over its reluctance to play USM and for giving football fans in the state a game that will generate intense interest.
Of course, not all MSU fans think the rivalry – dormant since 1990 – should be renewed. Too much to lose, too little to gain, they say, since expectations will always be that an SEC team should beat a Conference USA team and, as everyone knows, USM ordinarily is capable of playing with anybody.
But MSU Athletics Director Greg Byrne and Head Coach Dan Mullen dispute that thinking, and it’s a refreshing change. “We want to play as many games in this region as possible so that our fans have the opportunity to attend and our recruits have the opportunity to see us play,” Mullen said.
Mississippi universities should do all they reasonably can to cater to the convenience of the people whose taxes, tuition payments and private donations support them. Not only is an additional instate football rivalry game convenient for fans, it keeps the substantial economic impact of a big-time college football weekend inside the state. Why send those dollars elsewhere?
This year’s first-ever Mississippi State-Jackson State game in Starkville and USM-Alcorn State matchup in Hattiesburg were successful events, if lopsided on the field, and were good for the state.
The University of Mississippi hasn’t played Southern Miss since 1984. We’d welcome a similar change of heart at Ole Miss that would allow a renewal of that rivalry.
Of course, many Ole Miss fans will feel the same way their counterparts at Mississippi State do. They still remember the ability of Southern Miss to put a damper on a football weekend.
But it just makes good sense for the teams to play in all the ways that should matter. The games will be sure sellouts. They will keep money in the state. They will be great sources of conversation.
There was an unsuccessful effort a few years back by some legislators to pass a law requiring State, Southern and Ole Miss to play each other in football. That would be going too far.
But for schools voluntarily to come to the same conclusion is worth a hearty cheer.
NEMS Daily Journal