Categories
Sports

How Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin are influencing the new era of the Egg Bowl rivalry

A few months after Mississippi State hired Jackie Sherrill as its coach in 1991, then- Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer welcomed him to the Egg Bowl rivalry by calling him a "habitual liar."

The insult stemmed from what Brewer believed were improper recruiting tactics being employed by the Bulldogs. He alleged that Sherrill had contacted a former Ole Miss quarterback who had transferred to Texas A&M and enlisted his help in trying to sway a Black recruit away from the Rebels. The SEC reprimanded Brewer for his remarks.

"I haven’t spoken with the Reverend Sherrill," Brewer said at SEC Media Days that year. "I don’t think he has my phone number, and I damn sure don’t have his."

The Egg Bowl doesn’t have the pageantry of Army – Navy , the national title stakes of the Iron Bowl, or the regional importance of "The Game" played between Michigan and Ohio State . In fact, there has been only one occasion — in 1941 — when the Egg Bowl was played while the Bulldogs and Rebels both still had a chance to win the SEC.

Maybe that’s why in 1991, after the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels 24-9 in Sherrill’s first season, Sports Illustrated called the Egg Bowl "perhaps the saddest rivalry in all of Division I, a struggle for pride in a state where pride comes hard, then runs too deep and stays too long."

For most everyone outside of Mississippi, it’s simply the only college football game to watch on Thanksgiving night (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App). But for those people living in the Magnolia State, it’s still the only game that matters. And for a long time, the rivalry was as much about tearing the other side down as winning.

Steve Robertson, an author and sportswriter who has covered the Bulldogs since 2001, told ESPN in 2017, "It’s the two runt puppies in the SEC West fighting for the hind teat. When you finally get locked on that hind teat, you do whatever you have to do to stay there, even if the other guy has to starve."

Make no mistake: The animosity between the schools runs deep and has often percolated from the top. Sherrill, during his 13 seasons as MSU’s coach from 1991 to 2003, refused to call his team’s biggest rival by its preferred name. Former Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen simply referred to it as "The School Up North." Before Mullen’s first Egg Bowl game in 2009, his players walked over Rebels jerseys taped to the locker room floor.

C.R. "Dudy" Noble, the namesake of Mississippi State’s baseball field, played four sports for the Bulldogs and then coached at Ole Miss from 1917 to 1919. He once famously told a newspaper reporter: "I already know what hell is like. I once coached at Ole Miss."

"When you’re at Mississippi State," former Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom told Sports Illustrated in 2018, "you learn to hate Ole Miss."

Not anymore.

With two outsiders guiding Ole Miss and Mississippi State into Thursday night’s game at Davis Wade […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *