DESTIN, Fla. — The smuggling of cowbells into Davis Wade Stadium is finished — at least for a year.
Friday, in Destin, Fla., the Southeastern Conference amended its artificial noise-maker bylaw to allow the Mississippi State spirit symbol into Bulldogs” home games.
The agreement is a one-year trial and will be up for consideration during next year”s SEC meetings.
Friday proved to be a turning point for MSU fans, who may only ring cowbells after a touchdown or field goal, during a timeout, during pregame or during halftime.
For 36 years, cowbells, along with other artificial noisemakers, were banned from league venues. The cowbell, though, has long been a source of ire for opposing coaches and other institutions. The feeling from the rest of the league was that Mississippi State was bucking a written rule in not finding a way to police cowbells.
“Our people will have the opportunity to celebrate at home in a way they haven”t for the last three decades,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said Friday. “It”s not just a spirit symbol, but it”s university-wide. It”s a rallying cry.”
To extend the amended bylaw, Mississippi State fans must abide by the provisions, which only includes home SEC football games.
Stricklin, who explained the difficulty of confiscating smuggled cowbells to league members, admitted he traveled to Destin with the plan “to eliminate the ban all together.” Stricklin then shifted his focus to fan behavior, which had the baggage of Brett Morgan Vowell”s cowbell-centered assault charge stemming from last year”s Egg Bowl.
“Fines aren”t effective when trying to change that,” Stricklin said.
Stricklin used the current game-management bylaws, which outline when stadium directors and school bands can play music as grounds for when MSU fans can ring cowbells.
“What did we have to lose? The rule hasn”t worked and the outcome hasn”t made anyone happy,” Stricklin said of previous attempts to find middle ground. “I think there was a willingness and the league”s other athletic directors understood our challenge.”
Mississippi State president Dr. Mark Keenum, an MSU alum, said in a released statement he stumped for the cowbell by detailing the history of the cowbell and the importance of working a compromise while in Destin.
“For nearly 80 years, MSU”s fans have embraced the cowbell as an expression of school spirit and have passed on this tradition to sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters,” Keenum”s statement read. “I can speak to that experience first-hand, remembering the pride I felt at age nine upon receiving my first cowbell from my father and just 17 months ago when I was presented a shiny chrome cowbell upon becoming president of Mississippi State. I related to my colleagues the passion those cowbells evoked for me and shared that MSU fans across the nation felt the same emotions.
“I made the point that I was not speaking simply as the institutional executive officer at Mississippi State, but also as a lifelong Bulldog with deeply-held feelings about this issue,” Keenum added. “Scott Stricklin spoke with the same authority and passion in making his case to fellow athletic directors.”
Keenum also stressed the importance of fans” cooperation in making this agreement a fixture. Violations of the new policy could result in fines for the university.
“We have work ahead to educate our fans and alumni about the new arrangement, but this is great news for Mississippi State,” Keenum said.
Still, the joy and adulation that shot through the MSU fan base once news broke of the policy change came with as many questions about how thousands of fans will ring, then not ring during games.
The Bulldogs set school attendance records and had arguably the most exciting home slate this decade in 2009. More people meant more cowbells. Now that fans can enter the gates with cowbells in hand, even more will be inside the stadium.
Using Mississippi State”s 25 points per game average from last season, there”s an average of four to five scores a game using a varied mix of touchdowns and field goals. Factor that in with a total of 12 timeouts between both teams and there”s a small window to use cowbells while the game is actually in play.
Ringing is now prohibited while the play clock is running down for the opposing team or while an opposing team”s quarterback is trying to call an audible.
Stricklin is keenly aware of the new challenge ahead of MSU”s athletic department and insists Friday”s announcement will be a boost to game day atmosphere.
“I”ve got a lot of faith in MSU and its people,” Stricklin said. “For the first time in 36 years, the SEC is recognizing this is a special tradition. I understand there”s going to be temptation. For the love of their school, our fans have a responsibility now.
“There”s work on my end as AD, too, and we”re going to try and have fun with it. Expect us to do things with our game operations and in-game marketing to try and help this thing work.”
MSU welcomes 13; Love to enroll in July
The Mississippi State football program added 13 signees Friday, the first day of summer classes.
Beginning their college careers are freshmen Ferlando Bohanna, Kaleb Eulls, Dylan Favre, Nick Griffin, Brandon Hill, Christian Holmes, Jeff Howie, Jay Hughes, Malcolm Johnson, Eric Lawson, Jameon Lewis, Curtis Virges and Matthew Wells.
“It”s important for us to get these guys into the program, get acclimated with everything around campus during the summer months,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “As vital as it is for them to get involved in the weight room and start the physical preparation, it”s just as important for them to get used to the academic work that will be expected.”
The 13 freshmen join three other members of the signing class already on campus. Vick Ballard, James Carmon and Blaine Clausell all enrolled in January and participated in spring practices.
Several other members of the 26-player spring signing class are expected to join the team during the second summer session, which begins in July. The full squad will report to campus in August for the beginning of fall practice.
One surprising omission from the list is Aberdeen athlete Jamerson Love, who was set to enroll Wednesday before finding out he”d have to take an online algebra course before enrolling in July. There was a missing grade for the second nine weeks, though Love finished the Algebra class with an A.
Reported by The Monroe County Journal, once Jamerson”s missing grade, which was a B, was factored in to Love”s overall grade for the class, it brought the final grade down to a B. Love needed an A in the class.
It was rumored Love had his scholarship pulled because of the situation, a notion MSU spokesman Joe Galbraith and Aberdeen head coach Chris Duncan denied Friday.
“Absolutely untrue,” Galbraith said.