Skittles for breakfast?

Published 8:01 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

I don’t write about sports often, mainly because it’s not my job and also because I’m not good at it. In spite of that, here comes some sports.

My alma mater, Mississippi State University, just hired a new football coach. I know this because it’s the only thing people are talking about. We could be at war with Iran, the president has been impeached — everything in the world is terrible it seems. So people talk about football coaches and Air-Raid offenses and fake-peeing in the endzone.

They talk about anything and everything sports related — even something called hockey — to avoid discussing the disasters happening around us. Sports is great in that way.

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Upon hearing the news that MSU had hired the Pirate for a head coach, one State fan told me: “This is going to be great.”

I said: “Isn’t he the guy who got fired for allegedly locking a player in a closet.”

The reply: “Yes, this will be so much fun.”

The Pirate says he is innocent and denies mistreating the athlete. He also filed a lawsuit against Texas Tech, accusing the university of wrongful termination.

The Pirate has been a successful coach — both at Tech and Washington State — and I’m sure he will win football games in Starkville. But how many will be enough?

When I was sitting on the cold, metal bleachers in the student section at Davis Wade Stadium, we were lucky to win three or four games. We knew who we were — a mediocre team stuck in a conference division we had no chance of winning. We were OK with that.

In 2002, State went 3-9 (0-8 SEC). The next year was about the same: 2-10 (1-7 SEC), so was the next: 3-8 (2-6 SEC). My last year at State, we won three games.

For some perspective, MSU’s former coach won 14 games and lost 12 in two seasons. He won seven SEC games. He won both Egg Bowls.

And he was fired! Two winning seasons! Two bowl games! Two Egg Bowl victories!  Sylvester Croom would have killed for so much success. Early 2000s Jackie Sherrill would have, too.

The ticket office could have sold out every game during my time at State with those kinds of numbers.

Dan Mullen is to blame, of course. The man won enough games to convince State fans that we are better than 14-12 over two seasons. He briefly took us to No.1 in the first College Football Playoff poll. He took us to a 10-win season and two nine-win seasons.

He convinced us that we can compete with LSU, Auburn and maybe even Alabama (fact-check: we can not compete with Alabama).

So, we fired a coach who was 14-12 because we weren’t 20-6. I’m not saying State’s former coach was a keeper, but his firing underscores the madness that is college football. And yes, I’m aware there were some discipline issues on the team this season, but the Pirate allegedly locked a kid in a closet!

Another piece of this crazy pie: MSU reportedly used analytics to determine fan reaction on social media as names of prospective new coaches were leaked. The Pirate must score well on social media.

While listening to fans is an admirable approach, fans are not the most level-headed decision makers. Alabama fans disappointed about a 11-2 season are ready for Saban to retire.

Trusting fans with even part of a coaching search is like trusting a toddler to pick out his own cereal toppings. It will be Skittles every time, followed by a joyous sugar rush and two hours of crying when he crashes. 

I’m hoping the Pirate is better than Skittles. I hope this doesn’t end in tears.

Email publisher Luke Horton at