BRAD LOCKE: Cowbell issue has gotten too big for its britches

TUPELO – So, I’m writing about cowbells today, which proves an old adage I just made up: Sometimes big news isn’t big news.
In a way, it is a big deal, because large amounts of Mississippi State’s money is involved. As we learned earlier this week, Bulldog fans have not been in compliance with the SEC’s new artificial noisemaker rule, which means the school could wind up paying the league as much as $130,000 in fines after the season.
That’s why athletics director Scott Stricklin is so vocal about fans obeying the guidelines for responsible ringing, and why football coach Dan Mullen spoke to several hundred MSU students Tuesday night about the same thing.
MSU fans love their cowbells. Non-MSU fans tend to hate them.
I, of course, am indifferent. That might offend the unreasonable among you, but I believe such people make up only a small portion of the Daily Journal readership.
I understand the passion fans have for their cowbells, and I respect it. But let’s step back a moment: They’re cowbells. They have no effect on the outcome of a game.
The coaches and players will back me up on this.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips, whose Wildcats visit Starkville on Saturday, has been to Davis Wade Stadium a few times, and he’s expecting the cowbells to be ringing as loudly as ever.
But …
“It has never affected any game that I’ve been in,” Phillips said. “We just don’t hear it. You’ve got to tune it out if you’re a player.”
Oh, but he’s supposed to say that because he’s an opposing coach, right?
Mullen told students this Tuesday night: “Cowbells are important. But ringing a cowbell has nothing to do with us winning a football game. Coming to games. Making noise. Yelling. Staying to the end. Those things help us win games.”
Well, cowbells make noise, Dan. But, point taken.
In an Associated Press story, MSU receiver Chad Bumphis said, “We can’t even hear it. If you can hear that on the field, then you’ve got bigger problems than cowbells. I honestly don’t know what’s bothering people.”

Zero tolerance
This is what makes cowbells not-so-big news: They don’t affect the game.
So why does the SEC have restrictions on their use?
It’s simple: Allowing cowbells to be rung during a game, at any time, would mean any artificial noisemakers could be used.
Can you imagine thousands of people blowing air horns? Or those vuvuzelas? Or beating drums?
Yeah, it’d be like one of those wacky lower-division soccer matches in Instanbul or wherever. So while cowbells might be fairly innocuous compared to other noisemakers, a zero-tolerance policy is best.
There’s been an argument floating around that cowbells should be allowed because, hey, Davis Wade only seats 55,082 people (in theory), while places like Alabama and Tennessee can get 100,000-plus fans into their stadiums.
So, of course, cowbells are needed to make things more “fair.”
That argument lacks one key ingredient: logic.
There’s a difference between artificial noise and human noise, and I hope I don’t have to explain it, even to the softball moms.
This does not mean I’m against cowbells. I really wouldn’t care if the SEC decided cowbells were OK while other noisemakers are not – although as we all know, this policy was instituted solely because of cowbells.
Cowbells are “tradition,” which is fine, but who’s to say a new tradition couldn’t be started in Columbia or Gainesville or Fayetteville, one involving the aforementioned air horns?
Here’s the reality: The SEC is going to stand by its policy, and it’s going to levy fines against MSU for non-compliance. And some fans will still insist on not complying, thinking that they’re making some kind of statement when they’re only just hurting the school they hold dear.
This cowbell issue has gotten a bit big for its britches, and the fans are to blame. If I’m Stricklin, and I’m having to write a fat check out of my relatively small bank account because some idiots have no self-control or consideration, then next season I’m sending some muscular security guards through the stands to take those cowbells away.
Now, that would be big news.

Brad Locke ( covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio