By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State fans will be allowed to bring their cowbells into Davis Wade Stadium for another football season.
The Southeastern Conference school presidents approved by a voting majority to extend the temporary change to the artificial noisemaker policy drawn up last year which allows MSU fans to legally bring in a cowbell to the campus football stadium.
“This is a good day for Mississippi State and for fans everywhere who believe traditions are an important part of the college football experience,” Mississippi State President Mark Keenum said. “I appreciate Commissioner (Mike) Slive and our SEC colleagues working with us to allow cowbells to continue to ring in Davis Wade Stadium within the rules.”
Mississippi State Athletics Director Scott Stricklin would not confirm the results of the vote but told the Starkville Daily News it received overwhelming support at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla.
“I think that this year is a great opportunity for us to make that experience incredible and follow those rules to the letter,” Stricklin said. “As we said last year when we started talking about rules and what we needed to do — it’s doing it because we’re being made to do it; it’s doing it because it’s following the rules they’ve laid out to have respect for our tradition.”
Keenum confirmed Mississippi State will also be fined $30,000 for violations on cowbell usage in the first two league games in Starkville. The SEC put into place legislation last year that stated the fine structure would be $5,000 for the first violation and $25,000 for the second violation. The school’s next additional penalty would be $50,000.
“When the compromise was crafted last year, many people doubted we could abide by the terms of the deal,” Keenum said. “I am so appreciative of our fans, who demonstrated we could do the right thing. I am confident they will continue that good work this season, when it will be more important than ever to respect the bell.”
Stricklin confirmed Wednesday to Starkville Daily News in a phone conversation an initial vote among the league athletic directors ended with a 10-2 decision to eliminate the temporary legislation essentially calling for a widespread ban of the cowbell for the stadium.
Stricklin referred to the first vote among his athletic director colleagues as a straw poll without any discussion and was before the conference’s 12 head coaches were able to discuss the matter as well. The MSU athletic director said that vote “gave us an indication of where we stood before we got a chance to give our presentation.”
However, later in the day the league coaches voted to extend the policy through the 2011 football season and it wasn’t until that point the SEC athletic directors reconsidered their positions upon learning of the coaches’ support behind keeping it in place.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the cowbell by people who aren’t in our stadium during games,” Stricklin said Wednesday. “It’s funny because this rule was made to eliminate the noise and it seems like the coaches understand it’s not an advantage for us on the field.”
The vote by the league coaches comes on the same day with Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen giving a passionate speech involving the cowbells usage in the funeral of former Mississippi State defensive end Nick Bell who passed away last November.
“The entire Mississippi State community is grateful to the presidents for the opportunity to keep one of the great traditions of college football alive for another year,” Mullen said in a university statement. “Our fans deserve a great deal of credit for their compliance with the compromise that was reached a year ago, and their actions allowed us to preserve this cherished tradition.”
The SEC school presidents also approved a recommendation put into place Friday with legislation to limit football recruiting classes to no more than 25 players per offseason. This motion was highly discouraged by the head coaches in the conference but approved by league management despite their strong objection.
“Mississippi State is proud of the leadership role the SEC has taken in protecting the rights of student athletes while maintaining our competitiveness in the recruiting process,” Keenum said. “It is the right thing to do for the right reasons, and we feel it will have little, if any, impact on our ability to build a program that wins consistently in the toughest conference in America.”
The modification to the old policy banning artificial noisemakers again allows fans to use a cowbell only at Scott Field during pregame, halftime, between quarters, timeouts, after scoring plays and during possession changes. According to wording of the rule, MSU fans will not be allowed to bring and ring a cowbell into an opponent’s stadium.
Keenum stressed this one-year extension was asked for by MSU officials to showcase to league supervision they could handle the responsibility in order to possibly come back to the negotiating table for a permanent solution in the future.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there but I’ll say this – I’d like to get to a point in the future where the cowbell is not an issue at all,” Keenum said. “That will truly be a good day.”