When I say ramifications, I primarily mean the ruling that has generated a firestorm among some MSU fans, the ruling that could effect the ringing of cowbells in non-conference games. Although what happened was really more of a by-product of what the SEC passed when it approved its version of the Sportsmanship Statement, it has hit home for many MSU fans. What this interview tries to do is explain how this entire process happened, from the NCAA Sportsmanship Summit to the SEC passing a Sportsmanship Statement, and ultimately to how the ringing of cowbells during non-conference games came into play in this entire process.
Hopefully, this will answer most of your questions and we can get back to what we all really want to get back to and that is MSU football.
What type officials were at the NCAA Sportsmanship Summit, mainly game management officials?
"No, the summit included presidents, athletic directors, commissioners, head coaches. (Mississippi State's) Samye Johnson represented the Southeastern Conference as the senior women's administrator. (Georgia's) Vince Dooley was the athletic director. (Tennessee's) Phil Fulmer was the head football coach. I'm not sure who was the basketball coach. I think Dr. White of the University of Arkansas was the president that represented the Southeastern Conference. Every conference had representation there. It was a summit that we took very seriously. One of the recommendations from the summit was that each conference would go back and put together a series of recommendations that related to game management for their conference."
What caused the NCAA to have the Sportsmanship Summit in the first place?
"The summit took place due to fan behavior, unruly conduct by visiting teams, fights that we had in different venues, and also because of the way players have now individualized their celebrations. But it was primarily due to some people getting hurt last year, one in the Southeastern Conference - not at Mississippi State - and a number of national incidents, including post-game in football and basketball, where the fans got totally out of control. As you know, we had a last-second shot in basketball that determined the outcome of the game and the officials could not review the tape because the fans had overtaken the scorer's table and the court."
I know the athletic directors were the ones who voted on the Southeastern Conference Sportsmanship Statement. Who gathered the information and came up with what the athletic directors voted on?
"The game management personnel from all twelve institutions."
What were some of the things that were included in the Sportsmanship Statement by the SEC?
"Sportsmanship, on-field liaisons, conference policies for non-conference games, visiting team curtain calls, visiting band postgame, cheerleaders/mascots, interrupted game procedures, basketball LED lights - that's like the NBA where the lights go off all around the board on the last shot -, video spots on jumbotrons, approval of where basketball officials can review the end of a game if a crowd got out of control, and the problem of fans throwing items. Those were the items that were passed."
How did the cowbell ban come into play during this?
"Cowbells were never discussed, but the ruling was that all the policies of the Southeastern Conference would be followed for non-conference games. (As an examples of the new statement) we've told Oregon that they can't have 60 people on the sidelines. You can only have 40, because that is the SEC rule. We've told Oregon that they have to have an on-the-field liaison."
[See rule 3 below. It is the part of the statement that covered the use of cowbells by MSU fans during non-conference games.-Gene]
The vote was 12-0 for the rule. Since you represent Mississippi State, did you think it might be best to vote against the rule, especially since it could cause MSU to lose the use of cowbells during games?
"I voted for it because I thought it was more important that Mississippi State be supportive of sportsmanship and the code of conduct. And that's what this whole thing is about. Cowbells were never singled out in any discussion about the game management recommendations. It wasn't even mentioned at the summit or the game management discussions. We didn't vote on just one issue. We voted for the entire package. There are a lot of policies that got included into this deal of non-conference games other than just artificial noisemakers. I was not going to let our institution be the only one voting against sportsmanship. If cowbells are bigger than sportsmanship, then I'm sorry, I don't think that's in the best interest of Mississippi State."
One of the things brought up by MSU fans was that they didn't know anything about the new sportsmanship ruling until the last few days. Since it passed close to two weeks ago (August 12th), what was your reasoning for waiting to let fans know about it, especially since it effected the use of cowbells?
"We were going to do it this week as a part of the release that we normally do about such things as parking, gates opening, streets closing and other things like that."
That's all the questions I have. Do you have any other comments that you would like to make?
"I think the Mississippi State family needs to understand that the (SEC) Commissioner (Mike Slive) didn't make this rule. The Commissioner's job is to enforce the policies of the SEC. And we have the Commissioner assisting us on a number of issues that are much bigger than cowbells."
You mentioned at the Annual Bulldog Club meeting this past weekend that Commissioner Slive was instrumental in helping two MSU student-athletes receive favorable rulings from the NCAA. One, Mario Austin, was allowed to play last season while the other one, Kamau Jackson, will be able to play football this season.
"Mario Austin and Kamau Jackson would not be participating at Mississippi State if it had not been for the leadership of the Commissioner."
Some people have said it's his job to help all of the schools in the SEC and that he was just doing his job. Do you believe he has gone the extra mile to help MSU?
"He accompanied the president (Dr. Lee) and me to Indianapolis for both hearings and he didn't have to do that. He sat between us and his guidance on what to say, how to say it and when to say it were very instrumental."
Has he also helped Mississippi State in regard to the current NCAA investigation of Mississippi State?
"His leadership has been unbelievable in this process."
@ Rule 3 of the SEC Sportsmanship Statement: Conference Policies for Non-Conference Games - It is recommended that "policies related to game management shall apply to all home games at league institutions, not just to conference-vs.-conference games."
The rationale behind this: Differing policies for non-conference and conference games can create confusion among the fans and the support personnel.
[In other words, like SEC vs SEC games where artificial noisemakers (cowbells, as far as MSU fans are concerned) can result in a warning and then penalties by game officials, non-conference games now fall under that same rule due to this part of the SEC Sportsmanship Statement.-Gene]
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.