By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal
When you drive into Starkville on Highway 12 a few times a week, like I do, you’ve seen the slow but steady progress being made on the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.
If you wanted to turn that into a metaphor, you could say the construction of the 80,000-square foot facility is representative of what Dan Mullen is doing with the Mississippi State program itself – building it into something large and mighty.
Well, we’ll see about that. That’s just one part of my review of the past calendar year in MSU sports – which began with the football team winning the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 and ended with basketball player Dee Bost setting the school career assists record Saturday.
There are indeed signs of progress in football, basketball and baseball.
Football, of course, gets the most attention, because it’s A) the most popular sport, and B) pays the bills. But let’s face it, State went 7-6 this year, and it’s hard to imagine, just based on the entire history of both college and MSU football, that Mullen can ever turn this into a consistent SEC contender.
That’s just the reality. He can take the Bulldogs to mid-level bowl games every year, perhaps, and that would be a tremendous feat.
As for basketball, Rick Stansbury looks to have one of his best teams in 14 seasons. But with Dee Bost and probably Arnett Moultrie – among others – leaving after this season, you wonder how good this team will be next year.
Stansbury has never gotten MSU to the Sweet 16, which leaves a huge hole in his rampésumampé.
You know who has the best chance of sustaining long-term success at MSU? John Cohen.
It’s a rather small sample size I’m using to make that judgment, but the baseball team has made clear progress, and success is more sustainable in the SEC in that sport than in others. Cohen has a strong pitching staff and a ton of young talent, and when it comes to projecting the future, I’d read more into last year’s NCAA Super Regional run than I would MSU’s bowl wins or whatever the basketball team accomplishes this season.
Plus, MSU has a history of success in baseball, and Cohen has a history of success. He won at Kentucky. Say it with me: Kentucky baseball.
I know, it’s odd to evaluate a college sports program by the calendar year, but it’s as good a time as any to take the temperature.
And my reading says that for all the self-generated hype of Mullen, and for all the understandable enthusiasm about the basketball team, I see more substance on that baseball diamond.
Cohen’s building it, and the wins will keep on coming.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.