Cowbell compromise: 'Ring responsibly'

The Great Cowbell Compromise of 2010 might not please everyone, but the art of give-and-take rarely does.
The bottom line, though, is that after being approved by the SEC’s athletics directors and presidents in Destin, Fla., on Friday, Mississippi State University fans will be able to take their beloved cowbells into Davis Wade Stadium and ring them as loudly as they wish.
But only “at the appropriate times,” as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive cautioned on Friday.
The compromise, spearheaded by new MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin at this week’s annual SEC spring meetings, will permit cowbells to be rung:
– During pregame activities.
– During timeouts.
– Between quarters and at halftime.
– After Mississippi State scores.
– During possession changes.
“I’m very pleased that we were able to strike a compromise,” MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum said after the meeting at the Sandestin Hilton. “And I’m very proud of how our new AD handled this issue.”
In 1974, the SEC passed a rule forbidding artificial noisemakers, but it’s never had any real teeth despite efforts to confiscate cowbells at the stadium gates. As long as MSU fans were able to smuggle their cowbells into games, they were not stopped from ringing them, and the team and school never were penalized for it.
While the clanging cowbells have annoyed opposing fans and teams for years, they’ve become synonymous with MSU football.
“We have been hearing for a few months that the league was probably going to take a harsher view of the cowbell issue,” Stricklin said Friday afternoon. “We were in a situation that called for some ingenuity and creativity.”
Mississippi State will be subject to fines from the SEC office for failing to live up to the new agreement. Flunking the one-year test would, in turn, imperil any effort at the 2011 SEC meeting to make the new policy permanent.

‘Lengthy discussions’
SEC presidents approved the new policy after “very robust and lengthy discussions,” Keenum said. “There was recognition that our cowbells are among the rich, unique traditions in the conference.”
He would not speculate about the size of any possible noisemaker fine. “It could be very significant, in light of the fact Mississippi State has the SEC’s smallest athletic budget,” he said.
Both Stricklin and Keenum said the school will launch an effort to educate fans about the new rules. Expect to hear a lot of this slogan: “Ring responsibly.”
“I can see it on a T-shirt,” said Stricklin. “We want this to be a fun thing. And I have a lot of faith that our fans, our alumni and our students will make this work.”
Early reaction from Bulldog Nation seemed positive.
“That’s probably the best compromise that we could reach,” said Tupelo businessman Rick Faucette, a longtime Bulldogs fan. “It’s refreshing to have an AD and university president who understand how important the cowbell tradition is to our community.”
The season opens Sept. 4, when the Bulldogs play Memphis, but the first real test will come five days later – a Thursday night home game against SEC rival Auburn that is scheduled for ESPN.

Contact Brad Locke at (662) 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com; contact John L. Pitts at (662) 678-1522 or john.pitts@djournal.com.

Brad Locke & John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal