By MATTHEW STEVENS
Three bowl committee representatives made the trip to Starkville to scout and investigate the idea of the potential of Mississippi State representing the Southeastern Conference in their bowl game.
The Chick-fil-A, Capital One and Liberty Bowl committee representatives were on hand Saturday night to watch Arkansas pull out a 38-31 double-overtime victory over MSU.
Of the trio of bowl committees, the Chick-fil-A Bowl has been to Davis-Wade Stadium to the most Bulldogs home games during the 2010 season and Saturday sent representative Chad Richardson to Starkville.
â€śItâ€™s a great, loyal fan base and by the sound you hear out there (cowbells) you can tell everybody is excited about the wonderful season State is having,â€ť Richardson said.
Richardsonâ€™s flight to Golden Triangle Regional Airport arrived late so he said he was unable to visit the day before with MSU officials but expressed excitement about bringing State back to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the first time since 1999.
â€śWe are technically the marketing and selection committee so part of my job is just to be out here meeting folks and sort of spreading the word about our game and about Chick-fil-A,â€ť Richardson said.
The Liberty Bowl reps went down to hear Mississippi State Dan Mullenâ€™s post-game comments and to chat with the Bulldogs second-year head coach after the disappointing loss.
The Chick-fil-A bowl committee sent representative Larry Terry to interview and essentially let State officials know they were interested before Stateâ€™s victory against Kentucky three weeks ago.
â€śWhat we like to do is take a weekend and check out the campus, the fan bases because it helps us make our selection,â€ť Terry said before the Kentucky game. â€śI can tell you that everybody at MSU seems very excited to be apart of our game in Atlanta.â€ť
Terry went to dinner the night before at Harveryâ€™s Restaurant in Starkville with select MSU officials including athletic director Scott Stricklin to discuss specific items about the Bulldogs program.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl, which is the eighth-oldest bowl game in college football history, is again on New Yearâ€™s Eve and will involve a selected SEC school and the second-best Atlantic Coast Conference program.
The last time State was selected for the then-called Peach Bowl in 1999 and the result was an 17-7 Bulldogs win over Clemson.â€¨
State honors Nick Bell in final home game
Mississippi Stateâ€™s game operation honored the life of sophomore defensive end Nick Bell with a touching pre-game ceremony.
After the Mississippi State band spelled out Bell number 36 in its formation, a moment of silence was observed similarly to what occurred last week at Alabama. However, State officials put its unique twist on it as Nick Bellâ€™s mother, who hadnâ€™t been seen publicly in Starkville since her sonâ€™s memorial service, rang a cowbell.
Mississippi State tight end Kendrick Cook wore No. 36 this Saturday in honor his fallen teammate and fraternity brother.
State players will have a patch on the jersey for the rest of the 2010 season and a selected MSU player in each game will be wearing Bell's jersey number in each of the Bulldogs remaining contests.
Bell, 20, passed away at University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital last week after undergoing emergency surgery when a form of skin cancer had metastasized through his body.
Senior defensive back Charles Mitchell wore number 36 last weekend against Alabama to start the 2010 tradition and now the second person to speak at Bell memorial service will have the opportunity in his final home game of his career.
â€śThat is something that takes more strength than youâ€™ll ever get in the weight room and as a coach you always watch how a guy will respond to that,â€ť Diaz said earlier in the week. â€śIâ€™m proud of a guy that has the mental strength and is willing to send a message like that.â€ť
Cook was a fraternity brother of Bellâ€™s while the pair played at Mississippi State and led the crowd in a standing ovation during his speech at Bellâ€™s memorial service.
â€śWe all now see Nicks life on Earth was to show us â€“ we donâ€™t have long,â€ť Cook said. â€śOur time and Godâ€™s time arenâ€™t the same. The challenge is (if) you have a dream, go get it.â€ť