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WRAPPING 2013-14 IN MAROON AND WHITE

Going out on top, especially in sports, seems like the dream way for anything to end. Happily, the 2013-14 athletic year at Mississippi State was able to pull off the feat.

Thousands of miles from home, the final event of the athletic calendar came and went in less than two minutes, as Brandon McBride capped the Bulldog year with a brilliant run for a National Championship in the 800-meter sprint.

It was a fitting finale to an overwhelmingly successful year for the Maroon and White.
We had National Titles, victories on the road, at home and at neutral sites – our coaches, student-athletes and fans were broadcast across the world on satellite, cable and internet. Bulldogs set records in classrooms, courts, fields and the like.

MSU was represented on All-SEC, All-American, All-Region and countless other teams, with honors coming preseason, midseason and postseason for so many of our teams and individuals.

Speaking of, a dozen of our teams were represented in postseasons spanning from winter to summer and there were times of the year we could hardly go a day without seeing another team or individual move up in the rankings.

From degrees and draft picks to game-winners and all-nighters, 2013-14 marked a special year in Bulldog history.

Soccer kicked us off in late August with the debut of first-year head coach Aaron Gordon, and we watched as Elisabeth Sullivan cemented her status as one of the all-time greats to play for State, becoming the No. 1 goal-scorer in MSU history.

Volleyball followed shortly after, a season marked by record crowds, gritty SEC wins and a pair of All-Americans we can be proud of.

On the very next day, and the very last one of August, our men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked their year off in dominating fashion, sweeping the Memphis Twilight competition, the start of a continually successful season.

Coach Mullen’s football team had an interesting and, as it turned out, exciting year. Perhaps few campaigns represented the toughness, dedication and tenacity of Bulldog sports as our football men fought through injuries, inexperience and setbacks to end the season on a three-game win streak, and using three different starting quarterbacks to win those three games. After taking down Arkansas in overtime on the road and reclaiming the Egg Bowl in overtime in Starkville, the Bulldogs rang in the new year by handily taking victory from Rice in our fourth-straight bowl game.

Our men’s and women’s basketball teams signified the oncoming winter when they began in late fall, both teams trending upward entering their second years with Coaches Ray and Schaefer.

Each surpassed their previous year's win totals.

Our only time as host in the postseason for 2013-14, the run by our ladies in the WNIT was one of the most exciting and promising weeks of Bulldog athletics in some time, offering entertainment for the present and optimism for the future.

Come January, Coach Steve Dudley’s track and field teams began their six month stretch of dominance, beginning with the indoor season and the first of our two individual national titles. By the time indoor and outdoor concluded, Erica Bougard and Rochelle Farquharson had won SEC titles and Brandon McBride had been crowned the National Champion in both the indoor and outdoor 800-meter.

Our men’s and women’s tennis teams continued the tradition of big springs we’re building at MSU. The ladies entered the rankings for the first time in many years, a pair of our seniors had stellar final campaigns and both represented their team in the postseason.

Meanwhile, our men’s team continued a streak which has had them in the ITA Top 25 for 54-straight weeks of polls and once again found itself in the NCAA Tournament, finishing its fourth-straight season in the Top 20. Ranked seniors led the way and yet again our youth was honored when Florian Lakat was named the SEC Freshman of the Year.

And what more can I say about golf teams? Coach Clay Homan and the men reached the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, while Coach Ginger Brown-Lemm and her ladies have cemented themselves among the best in collegiate golf.

Led by All-Everything junior Ally McDonald, our women not only reached the NCAA Tourney, but made it to the National Championships for the second year in a row, finishing sixth overall, one of the best seasons in the history of all Bulldog athletics.

On the diamond, our softball team reached the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the three years since Vann Stuedeman took over as a coach, recording the second-best record in program history and one of the best starts to a season MSU softball has ever seen, all while senior Alison Owen became the all-time leader in strikeouts for the Maroon and White, a feat she accomplished in only two seasons.

Over at Dudy Noble, Coach Cohen’s team once again showed itself to be one of the best in the SEC, a Bulldog was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete for the second-straight year and yet again our fans proved themselves to be the best in the country. No place in America is better for college baseball, and you showed us that when you set the record for the biggest on-campus crowd in college baseball history on Super Bulldog Weekend, an incredible atmosphere for our Bulldogs and a walk-off win over our rivals.

Beyond athletic achievements, the Bulldog Club set a record for giving and surpassed 10,000 members. Our facilities have continued their upgrades, offering our teams the best and most up-to-date resources for success, all while the athletic department has grown substantially with new positions, new hires and an infusion of experiences.

There is never a bad time to be a Bulldog, but now is certainly one of the best times, and 2013-14 showed us that.

Thank you all – fans, coaches, staff, student-athletes and everyone involved – for an incredible year.

* * *

MATT ROBERTS

Our search for a new men's tennis coach didn't have to go very far, as assistant coach Matt Roberts has been promoted to take over the spot vacated by Per Nilsson. The Bulldogs have finished the season in the Top 20 for four-straight seasons, and Matt has been an important part of that the past two years. A former three-year captain at Arkansas, Matt has coached at both Michigan State and Mississippi State, and has exhibited the critical ability to recruit and develop players. He's going to do a great job for MSU!

* * *

FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Yesterday, we announced a two-year football series against North Carolina State, with games in Raleigh in 2020 and in Starkville in 2021. This followed an announcement from last month of a two-game series against Arizona (2022 and 2023).

You'll recall that, beginning in 2016, the SEC is requiring its 14 schools to schedule at least one non-conference game against a school in the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12. In addition to the games against NC State and Arizona, we are close to finalizing a 2018-19 series with another school from one of the "Big Five" conferences.

That leaves us with 2016 and 2017 still open as we work to fulfill the league's non-conference scheduling requirement. Since football scheduling is done year's in advance (i.e. the series' with NC State and Arizona), and many of the schools in those other four conferences already have plans in place for '16 and '17, it is providing a challenge to get those years lined up. However, we continue to pursue potential options while working with the SEC office to get our future schedules where they need to be.

We'll keep you posted as more developments emerge.

* * *

COWBELLS

It's been four years since the SEC amended its policy on artificial noisemakers, allowing fans at Davis Wade to bring our beloved cowbells to home Bulldog games and ring them during certain permissible windows - pregame, halftime, between quarters, during timeouts and after scores.

Those permissible windows were chosen in 2010 because they mirrored when "institutionally controlled" sound - music and sound effects - was allowed to be played through the stadium sound system.

At this year's SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, the league amended when "institutionally controlled" sound can be played in SEC stadiums, making it now allowable to play PA music between plays up until the moment the center is over the football.

And since the cowbell legislation is tied to the "institutionally controlled" sound rules, it has opened the opportunity for us to ring more often during Bulldog home games.

However, even though we have more freedom on when we can ring, using our cowbells while the other team's center is over the football opens the MSU Athletic Department up to fines by the league office. Our intention is to use the resources you provide us with wisely, and in a manner which helps our student-athletes and coaches be as successful as possible. I think you'll agree with me that paying unnecessary fines is not a wise use of our football program's precious resources.

Also, when we play on the road, we expect the home teams PA to follow the noise rules and not play music while our center is over the football. We should expect the same compliance of the rules from ourselves and our fans.

So, let's enjoy the new rules to express our Bulldog love by ringing those cowbells, but when the other team gets ready to run a play, set the bell down, and, as our fight song says, "Yell like H---."

* * *

DAVIS WADE UPDATE

We are now less than two months away from the 2014 Bulldog football season and the opening of renovated and expanded Davis Wade Stadium. Seemingly every MSU fan I run into these days asks about the stadium's progress.

The contractor is scheduled to turn the stadium over to the university on August 20. The pace ofwork has quickened substantially over the last few weeks, and that August 20th date is still reachable. Many of the interior spaces are currently getting finishes (paint, tile, counters, light fixtures, etc.), and key exterior work (seating, windows, etc.) is scheduled to wrap up by early August.

Installation of a key fan feature, the north end zone 110-foot wide video board, began this week, and all 321 video panels are expected to be in place in two weeks.

* * *

FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS ON SALE

Bulldog fans set a new Mississippi State football season ticket record in June, and have now purchased 44,833 tickets, including all of the new club and suite tickets in the north end zone.

Due to expansion, we still have a healthy supply of season tickets to sell, with several locations and price points to choose from. Also, a limited supply of memberships to The Gridiron (new field level club available to any season ticket holder) are also still available. Log on at HailState.com/tickets or MSUBulldogClub.com for more information, or call the MSU Ticket Office at (662) 325-2600.

* * *

We appreciate what you do for Mississippi State Athletics and want to encourage you to get others involved.  There are three things you can do to help the athletic department at Mississippi State reach its desired goals –

1.  Buy Season Tickets

2.  Financially Support the Bulldog Club

3.  Get Others To Do The Same

Thanks for taking the time to read this Update.   

Hail State!

Scott Stricklin