By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State fans are one step away from being allowed to bring their cowbell to Davis Wade Stadium for the 2011 football season.
With support from the majority of Southeastern Conference head coaches, the cowbell is expected to be allowed temporarily.
The league athletic directors voted Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., to extend the temporary change to artificial noisemaker policy that was drawn up last year and allowed MSU fans to legally bring in a cowbell to the campus football stadium for the first time in 36 years.
The extension on the change to the policy must go through a vote among the 12 school presidents in the league that will be conducted Friday at the Sandestin Hilton in Destin.
Attempts by Starkville Daily News to reach Mississippi State President Mark Keenum for comment were unsuccessful.
“Obviously you don’t want to be overly confident before a vote like this but Dr. Keenum will get another chance to a make a compelling argument this week to keep one of our sacred traditions for another year,” Mississippi State Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive also said Wednesday that the amount Mississippi State will be fined for violating the artificial noisemaker policy early in the 2010 season will be announced Friday as well.
Stricklin confirmed to Starkville Daily News in a phone conversation that 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 that the SEC athletic directors reconsidered its position 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. “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.”
Stricklin declined to detail the result of the second vote among the athletic directors beyond confirming a majority was reached in favor of the coaches’ motion to extend the temporary compromise.
This extension by the league coaches comes on the same day Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen was quoted Wednesday at the meetings comparing the removal of the cowbell with the alleged poisoning of the Toomer’s Corner oak trees on the campus of Auburn University this past winter.
“I think this new rule really allows for them (fans) to feel like they can keep their symbols,” Mullen said to the Montgomery Advertiser. “I empathize with Auburn this year. People came in and tried to hurt one of their traditions. I can empathize with that because it happens to us.”
The modification to the policy 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.
Stricklin emphasized this extension is just a one-year trial and possible fine structures or the old ban could be put into place if the rule is broken in 2011.
“We proposed it that way because I still think we need to show as fan base that we can be responsible with this and hopefully work toward a permanent resolution in the future,” Stricklin said.
According to last year’s compromised agreement, fans are still only allowed to ring the cowbell at Davis Wade Stadium before games, at halftime, during timeouts, after scores and after games.