Harper: Yes on all three initiatives. Plus, one man’s take on Ole Miss
Congressman Gregg Harper said at the Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon Monday that he will vote “yes” on all three ballot initiatives Tuesday.
That was the newsiest item from his 20-minute speech to maybe 50 people at the University Club in Jackson, but certainly not the most entertaining.
Harper opened with an announcement that Steve Guyton, a longtime Mississippi GOP operative who currently works for Sen. Roger Wicker, would be the new head coach at Ole Miss, replacing the fired Houston Nutt. Chip Reynolds, Harper’s district director, would serve as the new athletic director once Pete Boone leaves some time in 2012.
There were laughs all around.
Putting on my serious face, here’s what I hope happens: that Ole Miss hires somebody for both positions that is a world-class salesman. The new athletic director has to sell the overall program — and the massive capital campaign — to everybody. He has to sell it to those in the luxury boxes and to the folks in the bleachers, and he has to use every method that exists to do so. If he’s pumping gas and a kid walks by wearing an Ole Miss hat, he has to engage that kid and tell him that Ole Miss is the greatest place on earth.
The new coach has to sell the football program to recruits whose high school years have, for the most part, coincided with Ole Miss losing to Vanderbilt, losing to Jacksonville State, and sitting on the bottom of the Western Division standings. He has to make kids who have other SEC scholarship offers believe that Ole Miss is the place where all his dreams will come true.
Mississippi State has men who are really good at each, as hard as it is to admit. AD Scott Stricklin and coach Dan Mullen deserve a world of credit for what they’ve done in Starkville. Radical culture changes within an athletic department are possible, but it requires creative thinking, something that has been in awfully short supply at Ole Miss for longer than I’ve been alive; and a willingness to do things other than the way they’ve always been done.
The Ole Miss brand isn’t worth a lot today. Neither was Mississippi State’s exactly three years ago. State fixed that. Ole Miss had better do the same, or it will be permanently stuck in the realm of irrevelancy it has occupied for some time.