By DANNY P. SMITH
Mississippi State values the relationship it has with WFCA radio, which stands as the flagship radio station for the Bulldogs.
The person who now holds the primary responsibility for bringing MSU sports action across the airwaves understands what MSU and WFCA mean for each other.
Jim Ellis was the keynote speaker for Monday's Big Dawg Dinner at the Palmeiro Center and the 1969 graduate of Mississippi State spoke about the importance of the partnership between MSU and WFCA, the chance for the Bulldogs to be improved in all sports and about the focus being on student-athletes.
"It's about them getting an education and for them to become better people," Ellis said. "Let's have a great academic year and let's have a great athletic year.
"This has a chance of being a special year and every sport should be improved in 2011-12. I can't think of a sport or a coach that wouldn't feel that way."
Ellis is excited about having the opportunity to be a part of that success, but knows it might not have been possible if MSU and WFCA hadn't joined forces about 14 years ago.
"When we really needed some help, WFCA stepped forward," Ellis said. "We were looking for a radio station to carry our games in this area and they agreed to do that. Over the years, the coverage has expanded."
Ellis takes over for the legendary Jack Cristil as the play-by-play voice of the Bulldogs for football and men's basketball as well as continuing his baseball responsibilities. He has Matt Wyatt and John Correro helping in football with Bart Gregory assisting in men's basketball and baseball.
Jason Crowder, the sports director at WFCA, takes over for Gregory as the play-by-play announcer for MSU women's basketball games.
Sharon Fanning-Otis, the coach of the Lady Bulldogs, is excited about working with Crowder.
"In one of the first years I was here, I met Jason and he was waiting to talk with Jackie Sherrill," Fanning-Otis said. "He wasn't in school here yet, but he's a Bulldog and has been a Bulldog and we've all watched him grow up. He loves it and has a passion for it.
"He's following in great footsteps because Bart has done a tremendous job and Jim Ellis are the one's we worked with, but we look forward to working with Jason."
Fanning-Otis is already putting pressure on Crowder to hold up the reputation of the radio person being handy with the basketball.
"Losing Bart, (Jason) has really got to work on his one-on-one game so he and Brock (Turnipseed) can help us get into postseason play," Fanning-Otis said.
MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin also expressed his thanks to WFCA for its association with the Bulldogs.
Stricklin calls WFCA and the school at French Camp "a special place" and said some great work goes on there.
"I've had the opportunity to go and speak with their students," Stricklin said. "I encourage anyone who has a chance to go spend some time there to do it because you come away uplifted.
"It's pretty unique in this day and age for a major university and athletic program to have a relationship that we do with WFCA. It says a lot about understanding their mission and says a lot about the people of Mississippi too."
Stricklin is excited about getting another athletic year started at MSU.
The soccer season has already begun for the Bulldogs and volleyball starts this weekend with football not far behind.
"It's what you build for," Stricklin said. "It's a great experience where everything comes together. Right now we have 16 varsity sports and 400 student-athletes who are working incredibly hard.
"Everyone focuses on football, but every single one of our athletes are working hard with their sport, but also the class room. It's a fun time of year to be around the young people and help them be successful."