All posts by Acey Roberts

Acey is from the Jackson, MS area with an engineering degree from Ole Miss (the oldest engineering program in “Our State”), but doesn’t let his day job prevent him from displaying his passion for Ole Miss and SEC sports. While waiting for the day Ole Miss Football returns to glory, he objectively comments on the current news of the day. Acey is one of the founders of MakeItRainSports, contributing articles at Bleacher Reports and Fansided as well as Co-Hosts the MakeItRainSports and The Season Ticket radio shows on the VsportoNetwork. Loves BBQ and female fitness instructors; Hates commas and LSU. Follow on twitter @Aceyrob
Photos via Ole Miss Media Relations

Band of Brothers: Ole Miss’ Family Legacy

Mississippi is a State of small towns and close knit communities. Family, for most of us is the most important thing in our lives. Where we go to college or play college sports is also largely based on family ties. We tend to follow our parents or older siblings up to Oxford; because Ole Miss is also a large part of our family.

(This article originally printed in RebelNationMagazine)

We are blessed to have followed and cheered for some outstanding football families at Ole Miss which make up our own “Band of Brothers,” and if you are lucky enough to have played beside your brother at any level you know how special of an occurance it is for those families.

Today we have the Nkemdiche brothers and the Moore twins on the team but we have enjoyed watching standout brothers play together at Ole Miss for at least 80 years.

One of the most famous lines of siblings to ever play at Ole Miss was one of the first. The Poole brothers of Amite County, Mississippi. Buster Poole only began playing football his senior year in high school when he transferred to Natchez High School in the mid-1930’s.

Buster’s obvious natural talents were quickly recognized and he was introduced to the game of football. He soon began teaching his brother’s in the back yard and thus began a family legacy that has so far resulted in over 50 athletic letters to family members of the Poole’s with the most recent member in 2004’s Rob Robertson.

Don’t forget about one of Ole Miss’ first All-American’s with Bruiser Kinard (35-37) and his brothers Henry and George; the great running back Merle Hapes (39-41) and his brothers Clarence and Ray, who can be found still in the record books for punt and kick returns. The Mannings, I don’t have to say any more than that.

I could fill this entire magazine with stories about Ole Miss athletic families but I had the chance to talk to three guys in particular that shared some insight into their time at Ole Miss with their brothers.

Belton Johnson hails from the very small town of Coffeeville MS and arrived at Ole Miss as a walk-on in Tuberville’s last year. After some hard work and a coaching change he was rewarded with a scholarship and in 2002 his brother Marcus was able to join him on the field.

belton marcus johnson

Belton and Marcus not only played together they played right beside each other and that brotherly connection helped make both of them better players that resulted in two pro careers.

“It’s one thing thing to be on the same team as your brother but how many people can say they played side by side with their sibling? My brother and I can. Marcus and I are so close to each other to this day, even though he’s coaching the offensive line at Duke and I’m living in Regina, SK, Canada. We Face-Time at least 2-3 times a week and text on a daily basis. Even before he got to Oxford, Marcus would always encourage me to never give up and I would always push him to be great. Marcus and I truly had and still have a unique bond. My mom (Glenda Smith) was so happy to have both her boys playing so close to home as it was only a 30 minute drive from Coffeeville to Oxford. Little did my mom know, we were happy to be close to home too, as mom would often feed the offensive line either at our place in Oxford or home in Coffeeville. LOL!!! Big grocery bills!”

John Fourcade was a read-option QB before there was such a thing and is still one of the top five Rebels in touchdowns in his career with 22. The Gretna Louisiana native was at Ole Miss from 1978 to 1981 along with his linebacker brother Keith (79-82).

To John, having his brother at Ole Miss was very important factor during his recruiting.

“When I was being recruited, for me to go to Ole Miss, my brother would have to get a scholarship. We played together in high school and I wanted him to get a big time scholarship. Having him on the team with me and as my roommate for a year was special, so our family could see us both play together.

fourcades

Keith made a name for himself up at Ole Miss; he was the leader in tackles one season. Being able to have your brother play with me for three years, made it easier for me to play. I knew on offense I would be the leader and on defense he would lead.

It was just a dream come true to watch him on defense and for him to watch me do my thing on offense.”

It is hard to find a family outside of the Manning’s that contribute more to the Oxford area than previous Oxford Mayoral candidate Todd Wade and his brother Justin.

Todd Wade, Romaro Miller, Belton Johnson and Justin Wade

Todd Wade, Romaro Miller, Belton Johnson and Justin Wade

The Wade’s played high school ball at Jackson Prep. Todd was an All-American offensive lineman from 1996 to 1999 and Justin was a linebacker from (00 to 03). Justin lets us in on some special moments of playing with Todd.

“Having a brother who had already played (for a while) on the collegiate level gave me great insight on what to expect when I arrived from the get-go. Just seeing how hard Todd worked at his craft was a great learning experience even when I was still in high school because he would workout consistently even when he was in Jackson for the holidays.

I really tried to duplicate what he did, but pretty quickly in two-a-days it was apparent I would be redshirting. He told me to work hard that first year but enjoy yourself. It didn’t take him long to come back to me and say, ‘Whooo! I didn’t mean for you to have that much fun!’

We went against each other a few times in practice but I was low on the totem pole. There is an unwritten rule that a younger brother should find his own way a bit and not get shielded by his brother.

You have to ultimately stand on your own and earn the respect of your teammates. The seniors that year (Todd included) planned a big hazing ritual which they had to endure as freshman by running down sorority row in only our jock straps! We were a little freaked out, this was not like (standing up and singing) karaoke, this was sorority row in my underwear! There was no doubt I was going to do it. I would never back down, but luckily Coach Cutcliffe caught wind of it and put an end to the idea. That was the best news I had ever heard!

Having the opportunity to play with and share those times with your brother was an incredible experience and I will always appreciate what I gained from it.”

 

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Dabo Swinney and Hugh Freeze: Christian College Coaches Under Fire

No matter your personal beliefs, America’s founding values allow us to worship and share our individual faith. It was so important to our founding fathers, it was the first amendment to the Constitution that makes up the Bill of Rights.

Our nation was founded in part due to the persecution and harassment of English people that refused to follow the “Church of England.” Catholics and other traditional protestants were labeled as traitors and criminal laws were enacted against Puritan worship services.

So, religious persecution is nothing new in the world and it continues even today. Even in the world of college football.

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney will be facing off against the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11th with the national title on the line.

While both Coach Swinney and Saban are obviously great football coaches, Clemson’s Swinney expresses a personal faith that has put a bullseye on his back.

The Freedom From Religon Foundation has threatned lawsuit against Clemson due to Swinney’s out spoken Christianity.

According to the “Foundation,” Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that promotes Christianity and violates constitutional guidelines of the separation of church and state as stipulated in the Establishment Clause of the first amendment.

The Foundation is essentially saying that Swinney’s personal views as a high profile employee of the University borders on the official views of the University.

This is not a new fight or discussion. While the concept of a separation of Church and State is not expressly written in those exact words that was the intent of founding father Thomas Jefferson as a way to more easily explain the first amendment.

The key argument on both sides of this age old battle is do the kids or staff under Swinney’s control have the freedom to worship or not worship in their own personal way? And does Swinney’s faith and his expression of that faith somehow infringe on those under his control?

While I won’t be able to settle that argument here in this article, I do want to make the point that Swinney does have the personal constitutional right to express his faith. His right to do so should be supported by all Americans who enjoy the same right.

In the Deep South, high school football coaches are notorious for preaching in the locker room and using bible verses and biblical narratives in their motivational speeches.

If you have ever played high school football you probably had at least one coach like that and certainly in Mississippi, that is the rule rather than the exception.

But for some reason the idea of a college coach using these same lessons and stories of faith and struggle and perservance is seen as heresy or even hypocritical.

Ole Miss’ Coach Hugh Freeze is one of those preacher type high school coaches that happened to make the quantum leap to become a SEC head coach.

Photo by Kevin Cox - Getty Images

Photo by Kevin Cox – Getty Images

Freeze coached at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis for 13 years and is the son of one of those preacher type head coaches as Danny Freeze coached at Independence and Senatobia High schools in Mississippi. The younger Freeze no doubt grew up in that environment, learning from his father and other coaches and continues that model.

For Freeze, his faith is more than a model, it is even more important than football itself. He has said that football is just the platform, the opportunity, to impact the lives of people in the program.  Freeze said in a Washington Post article in 2014 that, “When my life comes to an end, how much does that scoreboard really matter?”

Given the fact that Freeze hold many of the same thoughts we all do as football fans in the South, why does his words cause so much concern.

I am willing to bet if anyone else said that same sentence, you would absolutely agree. But because a college football coach says it, there is some hidden sinister agenda behind his words.

As you would expect, rival fan bases and blog posts highlight this minority opinion.

Sage writer “DawgSmack” posts this gem from Maroon and White Nation that says Hugh Freeze’s Gospel is actually a Gospel of Hate.

The manager of MSU fan blog 3rdand57 had some interesting twitter posts recently that I think really highlights this thought that somehow big time college football coaches are not allowed or are incapable of having “core values” without lying or fabricating their faith.

beastman freeze faith invert

I understand rival fans are irrational but wow, when you stand back from a distance, it is really disheartening that fellow Christians can stand by and toss accusations like this without recognizing that we all struggle with faith.

We all fall short of the ideal. We are all hypocrites in that way and saying someone else is not perfect is holding a football coach up to a weirdly high standard that they wouldn’t hold themselves to.

Will Hugh Freeze make mistakes in his life, of course. Will God help Dabo Swinney beat the “evil” Nick Saban Alabama empire?  I hope my God has more to do on that Monday.

We need to stand with other men who are brave enough to take a stand and in the heat of the national media spotlight make their beliefs known.  Why would anyone work for a boss that only cares about winning and winning only?

Because at the end of our days, the scoreboard and the color of our jacket wont matter.

You don’t have to be a fan of Ole Miss or Clemson to appreciate men like Hugh Freeze and Dabo Swinney.

Worst sec message boards

THE WORST: SEC College Football Message Boards

Message boards. They are the worst thing that has ever happened to college football programs.

Period.

That is not up for debate. This is not an opinion piece, it is a un-deniable fact.

People in general are just nasty, dirty little anti-establishment creatures, I guess. There is something inside of us as a people that relish throwing stones at others.

So I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that when the internet comes along, people use it in nefarious ways.

If you have followed MakeItRainSports from the beginning you will know that we have never cared much for the anonymous trolling nature of message boards.

Today’s message boards are a written version of the bathroom/barroom conversations that have very little basis in fact and users try to build up their own ego by gathering attention rather than pass along factual information; because let’s face it, reality sucks sometimes.

Because message boards are a written record for anyone to peruse, it tends to hold more weight than a whispered joke in the back of a bar. The written word and ideas, no matter how ridiculous, can set off a “feeding-frenzy” and mob mentality rules.

The biggest problem for athletic directors at big colleges today is managing this anonymous, frustrating, sometimes hilarious, mob of people that really could care less about being fair or truthful, but just hate your program because of the color you wear or the town you are based in.

Of course not all message boards are equal, some are even more ridiculous than others. So the natural thing is to rank them right?

My criteria is the perceived distance from reality of the message board posters. Let me know how you rate these sites or others you have seen

5.  AuburnInside The Auburn Tigers (Scout)

Auburn pre-Cam Newton was one of the more friendly and enjoyable fan bases in the SEC. You had to feel sorry for Auburn fans and the punishment they have had to endure over the years with all the national titles in Tuscaloosa.

But with the success of Newton, some Auburn fans have taken the nuclear option in dealing with other teams and have adopted a self-appointed crown.

Since Cam they have only had one season with more than 8 wins, including one season with only three. Has that corrected their hubris?  Of course not, which is why ITAT is on the list.

4.  LSUTiger Droppings .com

While, LSU has been a dominate program over the last 10 years or so, the fans are never satisfied.  After a disappointing 8 win season (with a cancelled opener with McNeese State) fans took to leaving the stadium early and calling for the firing of Les Miles to a point that it would have happened if Jimbo Fisher wanted the job.

Tigerdroppings is the epitomy of crazy-football-fan-think. The only reason they are not higher on my list is that Les Miles does actually win 10-11 games a year.

3.  TennesseeVolnation .com

The worst thing that ever happened to Tennessee was Peyton Manning and Tee Martin. Tennessee fans have never gotten over the high of winning that national championship.  They are like Alabama before Nick Saban, living off accomplishments of the past and doing so in an annoying fashion.

For some of the best “lowlights” of VolNation we turn to our friends at Reddit – Dumbest of VolNation

2.  ArkansasHogville .net

Arkansas fans are interesting to me because I have never seen them as fully an SEC team or a SWC team.  They have always been on the fence.  At different times they have had huge rivalries with SWC/Big 12 teams and SEC teams.

Arkansas’ biggest problem as a fan base is they have no real in-state rival so they feel like they should be a powerhouse but they just aren’t that good and the fans are not willing to accept that.

This bunch of message board posters are ruthless however and have dug into the cell phone records of head coaches and their possible lovers.  Deadspin agrees, Arkansas fans are insane.

1.  Mississippi StateEliteDawgs .com

These geniuses think they are experts on Ole Miss more than their own team. This group is so bad at “message board-ing” they got kicked off an already crazy message board at SixPackSpeak because they were too crazy (if that’s possible).

So now, left to their own devices and with no real moderators they have developed conspiracy theories that would make Ancient Alien Theorists’ turn their heads.

Current topics being discussed are the secret Ole Miss recruiting booster network that has a recruiting cash budget of upwards of $2 million dollars in cash to pass to recruits.  And of course they think the NCAA is close to shutting Ole Miss down….

Un-Honorable Mentions:  All teams have “those type of fans” that seem to have lost touch with reality and don’t care who knows.  The following fan boards fit into the typical irrational love for their team.

Alabama – Bamaonline.com

Ole Miss – OM Spirit.com

Florida – Gatorcountry.com

Georgia – Dawgrant.com

Editors Note: The worst boards posted above are public boards and while there are no doubt some worse private boards we will at least give them credit for trying to hide their crazy.

 

ole miss hate

EGGBOWL 2015: Tailgating at Starkville – A Primer for Ole Miss Fans

So you want to see Ole Miss play in Starkville this year do ya?  Are you sure?  Is it really that important?

Fine.  I won’t stop you, but here are five things you need to know before you make the trek to the “Town that fun forgot.”

fresh as hail

1.  Bring your own food and drinks

SEC football tailgates are nationally known for having ridiculous spreads of food, drink and hospitality.  Mississippi State does not fit in that mold.  Here you will find mostly spreads of hoop cheese and crackers (made on campus) and at a really fancy tent you might find stuffed deer meat or subway catering.

I would recommend you bring your own food and nice bottle of liquor or wine.  Otherwise you will be stuck drinking cheap lite beer if you are lucky enough to find a bulldog willing to share.

milk cow msu

2.  Don’t dress up too much

One thing I can say about MSU fans, is they are not pretentious.  Comfort over fashion is the rule here and this late in the year with possible freezing temps and precipitation, expect to see more camouflage hunting gear than team colors.

If you wear slacks and or a sports jacket or a scarf you will be a dead give away that you are not “from around here.”  You might as well wear a #10 Chad Kelly jersey with a target on the back of your head.

bitch im a dawg

3.  Bring ear plugs

Mississippi State has worked hard over the last 10-15 years to upgrade their gameday experience.  Ole Miss fans may find their pre-game festivities very familiar.  That is because they have actually carbon copied the Ole Miss pre-game.

They built a miniature version of The Grove and called it the Junction.  They have the players walk through a crowd of fans just like the Walk of Champions (They call it the Bulldog Walk).  They even have a fairly new cheer called Maroon and White that ends with a hint of profanity, just like our own Hotty Toddy cheer.

But the one thing State has that no one would envy is the fan’s tradition of ringing cow bells.  How this got started or why it is continued is a head shaking wonder.

Just understand it is annoying , so be prepared.

cowbell girl

4.  Have a few deer hunting stories

Don’t be afraid to interact with the natives.  If you are dressed comfortably or maybe you have a few friends that are MSU fans, feel free to have a seat with the dogs and enjoy the day.

Make them feel comfortable by talking about deer hunting or what you planted in the winter garden.  Even if you don’t do either of those things, you will be more easily accepted.

Talking about business or stock options is another dead give away you are a Ole Miss fan.

stingray bull

5.  Get out of town as fast as possible after you win (or lose) in Starkville.

The MSU fan base is very unpredictable.  They are as likely to bail before halftime as they are willing to stand in the middle of the street after the game and swat at people with their cowbell like a country boy battle sword.

No matter the outcome, my best advice is to just have your things gathered up and ready to bolt to the car right after the game.

You can enjoy gloating from a distance for the next 365 days until the next Battle of the Golden Egg.

msu mad

 

 

egg bowl 2015 1

HAS THE EGG BOWL RIVALRY GOTTEN OUT OF HAND?

(This article originally featured in RebelNationMagazine – Pick up a copy at your local magazine rack!)

The “Battle for the Golden Egg” has always been a hotly contested battle between two bitter rivals. Even if the game rarely has wide ranging implications, in the state of Mississippi it is a cherished tradition.

The game has only decided a division or conference champion a handful of times in it 100 plus years in existence. Most years, the egg-shaped trophy is the only reward for a long, hard-fought season.

The most successful coaches at each school found a way to win the egg bowl. Playing down the importance of this game or overlooking the in-state rival is not advised. That is, If you plan to stick around very long.

As fans, we always hoped and prayed that one day this game might mean something. It’s natural to feel a little jealous of our neighbors to the East in Alabama where the game always seems to have larger stakes. They certainly have a larger national media draw.

The Iron Bowl has only been supplanted by the Egg Bowl once on the TV broadcast pecking order and that was last year due to licensing issues because CBS was unable to televise a sixth Alabama game, or they probably would have.

In the last 20 years, the winner of the Iron Bowl has been split 11-10 in favor of Auburn. Alabama has six SEC western division titles over that time with three national titles. Auburn has five divisional titles and 1 national title with one undefeated season not resulting in a national title for Auburn (2004).

In the Egg Bowl in the last 20 years, the games are split evenly 10 to 10.  There has only been 1 divisional champion between the teams and neither Mississippi team has gotten to the promised land of a national champion in a long, long time.

With the addition of Dan Mullen over the last few years, we have seen a glimpse of the high stakes poker that is normally reserved for the state of Alabama.

Dan Mullen successfully jump-started what was a dead rivalry in 2009 by pulling out all the stops. He put the entire focus of his program on winning the Egg Bowl. He claimed Mississippi as “Our State” for MSU fans, refused to call Ole Miss by their name and has successful stirred up strong emotions for State fans to Iron Bowl levels and beyond.

Since 2009, the Egg Bowl is now fought year round, on billboards and in the office. You see a battle for the best tailgating area, you see a battle for who can make the best post game video, a battle for who has the most students, best cheerleaders, etc.

The Bulldogs were frothing at the mouth over Dan Mullen’s first three wins in the series, but since 2012 Freeze has flipped the script on him and the despair and negativity of MSU fans are making the rivalry almost unbearable.

It’s not really enjoyable to attend the Egg Bowl in Starkville anymore, not that we ever liked going to a game at MSU but watching the games were so much fun in the 80’s and 90’s, no matter where the games were played.

Now, as an Ole Miss fan you are more likely to get in a fight defending your wife in Starkville rather than Baton Rouge.

The biggest difference in the Egg Bowl rivalry compared to the Iron Bowl rivalry and most other in-state rivalries is there is truly a lack of respect between the teams and it starts at the top. Dan Mullen’s antics when he began coaching at State were sophomoric and unprofessional which is fine and even could be seen as funny except the MSU fans take that as a license to take an even lower step.

In Alabama, the “smack” talk is tempered with the fact that either team can win the game, no matter the record. They respect each other’s talent and accomplishments and the game is more a shared event by the fans. The way things used to be here.

In Mississippi, the State fans and MSU-aligned media don’t even extend platitudes to Ole Miss. Even though Mullen has lost two of the last three games, Freeze is still referred to as a women’s high school basketball coach. NCAA sanctions are hoped and wished for by a fan base that can’t seem to beat Ole Miss in recruiting.

The absolute worst indication of where this rivalry is headed is last year’s anonymous threat to damaging the trees in the grove.

Last November, prior to the Egg Bowl in Oxford, the University Police department alerted the FBI to a hand written note that was signed, “Hail State/Go To Hell TSUN,” and threatened damage to the shrubs and trees on the Ole Miss campus.

According to University news reports the letter read: “What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday ain’t nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be the most pretty campus next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the Grove.”

The childish threat ended with the sentence, “Can’t stop us.”

UPD Police chief Calvin Sellers reminded everyone of reality. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to damage a landmark for which all Mississippian’s take great pride.”

While Mullen and the MSU fans are busy fighting Ole Miss off the field, Hugh Freeze takes the right approach by having a professional attitude and wins the game on the field.

Let’s get this rivalry back to the point where we can look each other in the eye, shake hands like a man and respect our opponents, win or lose.