One of the cool things about this new gig here with HailState.com is the occasional ability to venture into lands previously uncharted by media folks like myself, and I got an opportunity to do that today.
I also got the one thing every member of the media cares about the most: free food. Lunch, in today’s case.
I won’t bore you with the details of mass-produced pasta and gallons of sweet tea, but I did want to pass along a rivalry note or two.
A couple or few times per year (that’s an exact number), the entire athletic department at Mississippi State – coaches, assistants, media relations, support staff, everyone – has a free lunch and gathering. Once lured in with food, mister Athletic Director himself Scott Stricklin takes the podium, shares some stories, doles out congratulatory messages where deserved and offers a general update on what’s going on within the athletic department.
The highlight? Stricklin talking about his relationship and recent interactions with his new A.D. counterpart at Ole Miss, Ross Bjork.
The two are good friends, and Stricklin even tweeted a picture they took together at a convention earlier this week. That doesn’t change the rivalry, though.
Stricklin made sure the staff knew that Ole Miss wouldn’t go soft on the rivalry, and friendship won’t get in the way of Bjork wanting to beat the in-state rival every chance he gets. The games will be important to those in Oxford, Stricklin said. He wants to make sure they are more important those in Starkville.
While first pointing out that MSU has been quite successful against Ole Miss in the big three sports the last couple years, Stricklin conceded the overall record in all sports is a bit more even.
With that in my mind, Stricklin offered some soft encouragement to the coaches in the room.
“I know all games are important, but the emphasis we’ve put on the in-state rivalry, I’ll just say let’s not take our foot off the gas on that one,” Stricklin said. “I’m not joking.”
As soon as he said he wasn’t joking, the laughs started. But the point was made; Stricklin wants to beat Ole Miss in everything.