Die-hard Mississippi State football fans who basked in the forced resignation of Hugh Freeze in the summer of 2017 and in the NCAA’s subsequent destruction of the Ole Miss football program hopefully have come to understand that such outcomes are not good for either side of that rivalry, nor the state as a whole.
The announcement this week that Ole Miss has hired Lane Kiffin to reignite the school’s proud program should be delightful news to the Oxford school’s fanbase, and it should also signal an end to one of the most bleh three seasons of college football in Mississippi in a long time, which should delight Bulldogs fans as well.
State fans might have thought at the time that there was some literal and poetic justice in what Ole Miss faced in the wake of the infamous pay-for-play and escort service scandals, but anyone on the Starkville side that has actually relished the results of those penalties – all of which the Landsharks program brought on itself – is shortsighted and truly does not value the competition enjoyed by the rival programs.
Bulldogs fans might feel the source of their current depression stems from 2019’s mediocre 6-6 record, especially since the team that was on the field every week had potential for more success, but I’d venture to say that at least some of those forlorn can blame that sick feeling in the pit of their stomach on “The School Up North’s” 4-8 campaign.
Starting in 2017, Ole Miss received a two-year postseason ban, along with other penalties, including losing a lot of scholarships, because of longstanding NCAA rules violations.
Ole Miss avoided the “death penalty” and in a big way, Mississippi State did as well.
It’s nice to dream about SEC championships and national titles, but the reality for fans of both schools during most years is that a successful season equates to eight or nine wins and a great bowl game.
And to cap that off, fans should love an equitable Egg Bowl match, where the best team wins.
Neither side has enjoyed a high level of success since 2017.
Ole Miss’ rules violations off the field perhaps had their biggest impact off the field.
I have no doubt that Kiffin will run a winning program at Ole Miss, but he can only do so much to fix the economic hit the city of Oxford has taken over the past couple of years, as fans with disposable income have found other things to do on game-days, rather than spend their money in the surroundings of the school.
Demand for real estate has dropped there as well, which has had a negative effect on pricing.
All of these things affect business, taxes and local schools.
These are residual penalties that State fans should never have wished on their worst enemy, and Ole Miss has paid its dues.
State fans should hope that under new Chancellor Glenn Boyce, new Athletic Director Keith Carter and Kiffin, the school will once again be stabilized and the on-field rivalry between the two sides can be fun again.
It’s good for football. It’s good for business. It’s good for our state.