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
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END OF AN ERA: Can Beat Writers Survive Social Media?

If the pen is mightier than the sword, the ultimate weapon must be a message board.

Nowhere else can you so quickly and effectively shape public opinion in the world of sports. If I could capitalize on free, worthless information, I would be posting this from my Destin beach house!

Let’s just face it, newspapers are the worst. Right? If you are a sports fan (of any team) you have likely convinced yourself that your local newspaper is owned by your rival.

(This article originally ran in RebelNationMagazine.com)

It’s one of the only things that Ole Miss fans have in common with all other fans. We all think the newspaper hates our team. It’s a clue to the fact that all fans are the same, fanatical to a fault and incapable of objectivity.

If you are a real, “degreed” journalist you likely scoff at the idea that the public would dare question your integrity and professional ethics.

Today, large newspapers are filled with ambitious 25 year olds that have likely never visited your college campus prior to being hired by your local paper. The idea that there is some sort of given bias for or against your school is really just a fantasy in your mind.

Your beat writer doesn’t hate your school. He is just being honest and that does not align with our base sensibilities.

Reality is a bitter pill and truth is no one’s friend. While those sayings are constant and 100% true; being brutally honest doesn’t really sell papers anymore.

Since the advent of free websites and keyboards, people have more options to read than fish-wrap to read every morning.

When I became a sports fan in the late 80’s there was virtually zero information during the summer about my favorite team. Recruiting was followed by the coaches that recruited. I assume beat writers prior to the 90’s had the same schedule as school teachers and great golf scores.

I longed for the Athlon’s and Lindy’s preseason magazines and would read them over and over during the summer until I basically had them memorized.

The information coming from a college town during the summer was slower than Billy Brewer’s drawl. The less information that got out during “arrest” season, the better for the coaches and the writers back then made sure to protect those relationships.

Now, stories are broken by college kids with a twitter account that saw the cops arrest the athlete in their dorm, complete with video of the arrest and extended commentary afterward. You no longer have to wait for the SID’s press conference 10 days later regarding “internal punishment” and all details have been expunged from the record.

Recruiting “gurus” have further turned the profession on its ear. Recruiting “news” is the exact opposite of what vetted news was like 20 years ago. The fewer details and the more exaggerated the claim the better actually.  At some point; the more the sites unfairly hyped players, the more money the “gurus” made.

I don’t know when the tipping point was reached but 2015 is clearly beyond the control of the beat writer. At the Clarion-Ledger, both MSU and Ole Miss beat writers have been roundly excommunicated by their fan bases for essentially reporting the news.  (Riley Blevins and Mike Bonner many times)

I know every Ole Miss fan thought Rick Cleveland was secretly a fan of MSU or USM back in the day but oh how we long for a Rick Cleveland today. We will never have that familiarity from a beat writer or editorial staff again.

On one hand, we have never had a time when the beat writers were more honest and un-biased towards our respective schools but at the same time; subscriptions have never been lower.

I am not blaming the current newspaper staff.  Nor am I saying they could even do anything to change their fate. This is just where technology is taking us today.

People want to get mass quantities of information and ideally with a tinge of propaganda, and if they can’t get that they will at least settle for negative news about their rival. The money spent on website subscriptions justify this form of journalism. It’s what the market demands. It’s what the people want.

Fox Sports Regional websites have seen heavy editorial layoffs. ESPN is slashing budgets in half or even deeper, Gannett has been liquidating their most top heavy talent from USA Today and replicating that process down to even the smallest market of Jackson, MS.

If you are looking for the worst examples of what passes for “journalism” today look no farther than fan sites such as Maroon and White Nation or Elite Dawgs. In the world of sports writing it is the Highlights-for-Kids equivalent. I have a hard time even saying they are MSU based outlets because they have as much Ole Miss related content as MSU.

But this is what fans like. M&W Nation was the #1 read Fansided blog last fall. This type of ridiculous, fan-centric, click baiting is what most fans read.  Apparently.

The big generic corporations can’t or either refuse to adapt to the blog site format. The audience is too fractured, there are too many outlets and fans certainly don’t care about the opinions of talking heads from New York or DC. There is no money to be made from twitter users.  Why would they pay a subscription fee when they get their high fives and chuckles for free on a blog site or a message board?

So what is the future?  Where is this going?

In the past we had very few media sources. Now we have too many choices.  Perhaps the future is the laziest option possible; being force fed information without paying or even searching for it.

The “Team Stream” concept from Bleacher Report or ESPN which aggregates news and social media and sends it to your phone at a moment’s notice as twitter and game scores break. Of course it uses mainly computer algorithms and very few flesh and blood experienced writers to put out an enormous amount of content daily.

It is likely this type of zero-effort social media content will also spell the end of the micro-market subscription sports services and message boards as well.

I guess you live by the sword and you die by the sword, but I won’t cry when M&W or Elite Dawgs dies.

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OLE MISS SEC MEDIA DAYS: Hugh Freeze Embraces Celebrity Status

Story originally featured in Rebel Nation Magazine

In many ways, Ole Miss’ head coach Hugh Freeze is an unlikely success story.

Relatively few private school coaches break through to the college ranks, much less to be a head coach of an SEC school.

He doesn’t have the pedigree of a Lane Kiffin and he can’t fall back on the coaching tree of a famous head coach (He is in the Orgeron coaching tree for goodness sakes).

Freeze has had to force his way into the limelight in virtually every job. He begged Orgeron for a position at Ole Miss at a big pay cut to prove himself. The son of a high school football coach and dairy farmer he knew all about hard work and Orgeron taught him the recruiting game.

But something Orgeron never completely embraced was marketing yourself. Every good coach has a bit of a politician in them. While the press can be a double edged sword, the media can certainly be used to help your program just as easily as it can turn against you.

Eight years after his first SEC job, Hugh Freeze has embraced his celebrity status as a SEC head coach and it is one of the reasons he has been so successful in his first three years at Ole Miss.

2015, is a new age of college football.

While some old football junkies will tell you there is nothing new under the sun in college football, the “old school” days of hard-as-nails coaches do not have as much success today.

The 1950’s crew cuts and the Bear Bryant “Junction Boys” style of play and practice won’t get you as far today. The players and fans don’t respond to it. Today is a new age, a different time.

Today, a head coach’s every move is instantly broadcast by the media and/or by fans on social media. There is no hiding injuries, or style of play from the media or opposing teams.

You can’t hide anything about your program from potential recruits in today’s world. So, rather than fight the system, Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss has embraced it and are producing great multimedia work that helps to improve the national impression of the program and bring more recruits to the school.

It is genius because with the media’s help, there is a snowball effect that helps Ole Miss improve faster, over time.

Of course there are some things you can plan and some you cannot that have helped Freeze become a media darling.

For one, you can enter the SEC coach’s golf tournament but you can’t fake winning the long drive contest, or you can’t luck up and win the SEC spring meeting tournament.

You can only ride the attention from a Hollywood movie like The Blind Side for so long until you need some wins on the field. Freeze has backed it up by getting a #3 national ranking in only his third year.

Coach Freeze is also taking calculated steps to broaden his appeal. This year he served as the pace car driver at Talladega and has included large regional churches in his speaking circuit this offseason. You might see him at the opening of a Bass Pro Shop in Memphis, doing missionary work in Haiti or calling randomly to the Paul Finebaum radio show.

“Celebrity” is something of a given for the head coach of a major college program but what makes Hugh Freeze so appealing is he is not trying to be something he is not.

Over time, people can see through you if you are faking it. Hugh Freeze is a Mississippi boy and people here understand that and can easily relate to him.

This is a head coach that goes bass fishing barefoot and tweets his photos immediately for everyone to see. You feel like he is your next door neighbor. Freeze broke out a terrible celebratory break dance in the locker room after winning the Music City Bowl in 2013 but it was honest and fun.

He spends a certain amount of time on twitter to respond and converse with fans. Very few multi-million dollar coaches allow this type of personal access and it pays off.

In short order, Ole Miss under Hugh Freeze has transformed from the zero SEC-win season to a preseason top 15 team with high expectations. Ole Miss has historically had a hard time beating MSU for in-state recruiting battles, now they are pulling the top players out of Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Is Hugh Freeze a salesman?  In a way; yes. But the best salesman are just honest and they know their product and they know their market.

Coach Freeze adapts his play calling to his players. He adapts his rhetoric and his motivation to the situation at hand. So many coaches have a “my way or the highway” philosophy which doesn’t work in all situations.

Freeze has a “we work together” system and players and fans can trust that he will find a way to be successful.

Even old school coaches will tell you the best coaches can, “Take his and beat yours and take yours and beat his” (the immortal words of Bum Phillips). That is a perfect description for Hugh Freeze.  Some coaches might work harder but Freeze also works smarter and will find that edge to make his team better.

Players recognize that and trust him with their future.

Hugh Freeze is the perfect person to lead Ole Miss, he is from Mississippi and he knows how to sell Mississippi. He doesn’t fight with the media like some in the SEC. He won’t hide injuries or try to limit access to his program.

The celebrity aspect of Hugh Freeze is a big part of the success of his program and it appears the best is yet to come for Ole Miss.

LBS

A Letter to Rebel Nation: What is Wrong with MS State Fans?

I think it is past time we all get together for a little “family” meeting.  In any large family like the one we have in Mississippi there will be some conflicts and some growing pains.

(Article orginally appears at www.RebelNationMagazine.com)

We need to have a talk because right now our brothers from Mississippi State are having a really hard time and I think it’s important that we help them work this out.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss fans have always enjoyed a pretty deep seated hatred for each other and historically the Rebels have dominated the Bulldogs in football, while State has had a little more success in baseball and basketball in the modern era.

Recently, Ole Miss has taken over all three sports winning two of the last three Egg Bowls, winning the SEC basketball tournament in 2012 and taking a trip to Omaha in 2014.

Ole Miss has not lost a game in the recent calendar year, sweeping MSU 7-0 in the major men’s sports for the first time in 40 years.

Prior to Dan Mullen, MSU had not won three straight games over the Rebels in football since World War II.  They honestly thought things were changing.

Hugh Freeze took over the Ole Miss football program at a low point with little to no experience while Dan Mullen had national championship rings from his time as a coordinator at Florida.  It was a good time for the Maroons.

But then a funny thing happened, which is likely in a rivalry.  The pendulum swung back to the other side.

Hugh Freeze brought in a new attitude, a harder work ethic in recruiting and blew out MSU in 2012 and he hasn’t looked back.

Dan Mullen had his best team ever in 2014 with 10 wins regular season wins, only to get blown out by again by Hugh Freeze, 31-17.

It is more than some State fans can handle, apparently.

Just a few years ago, the Magnolia State rivalry was a fun little diversion from daily life but now it’s a personal fight that some MSU fans are taking too far.

After the outrageously successful 2013 recruiting class for Ole Miss, the Rebels were nationally celebrated, signing the nation’s top player and a top 5 class.

MSU, in 2013, was placed on probation by the NCAA for illegal recruiting of a two-star defensive back.

There has existed an element of revenge by MSU fans ever since, to the point that MSU fans in the media have even gotten in the fray.  A MSU-fan radio host in Jackson attempted to validate a MSU message board as a legitimate source on Ole Miss recruiting.  As they created the phrase “the network” to try to disparage Ole Miss and take some of the negativity away from Starkville.

This “expert” only known as “Coach” (but not an actual football coach) was allowed to slander Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze for his 15 minutes while the radio host gave legitimacy to unproven illegal recruiting tactics at a state University.

A part of “The Network” included alleged illegal social media contact by Ole Miss fans.  Due to the expert testimony of “Coach,” MSU fans and media have searched high and low for illegal contact on twitter and facebook, even stooping so low as to actually drive to people’s house and search for those operating twitter accounts.

(Let that sink in for minute.)

There are hundreds of thousands of college age kids that talk to each other on twitter and facebook.  Is it “illegal contact?”  Possibly.  Are we going to stalk and search every house for the operators of said twitter accounts?  Good God, I hope not!

The level of paranoia in the MSU fan base is unprecedented and out of control.

The problem is, MSU fan feels slighted.  The are angry and it is clouding their logic.

I could take these guy’s seriously and get upset but I understand how they feel and I think we need to offer them a token of peace.

There is an Italian proverb that says, “He who offends writes in sand;  He who offended, in marble.”

A lot of us had a big brother or older relative growing up.  It was easy for him to walk by our room, thump us on the ear and just walk out without another thought about it the entire day.

The pain from that simple thump on the ear sticks with the little brother.  The pain is quickly gone but the perceived disrespect lasts forever.

For some kids, the back and forth competition becomes an obsession.  It can drive the little brother his whole life, giving him motivation to scheme and work hard in sports or school to do better than his big brother in something, anything.

When MSU finally for the first time in 60 years accomplished three Egg Bowl wins it was like standing on the mountain top.  It was a lifetime accomplishment for some MSU fans.  They felt like they did something to make that happen.

Then the next year, big brother easily knocked MSU off the mountain and continued to beat them at every opportunity.

I have never seen a time where my school was swept by MSU in every sport but I can imagine it is not fun to be a State fan right now.

Imagine if your favorite shirt or hat only serves to remind you of the time and money you have lost watching your team get beat by your most hated rival, in every sport, time after time.

Imagine if everything in your being just knew that your rival was cheating and recruiting illegally but yet, your team was currently on probation for recruiting illegally and providing cash and cars to players.

Imagine if your worst nightmare came true as your baseball team got beat on your biggest home baseball weekend of the year.  What if your basketball team lost four straight to your rival and your best football team ever in your history, was just not good enough.

If any of this happened to me, I would have to tip my hat and give the other team props.  That is what normal people would do, but these guys are not thinking clearly.

They actually have a clinical disorder.  It’s called “Little Brother Syndrome” or LBS as it is known.

So what is LBS? The Urban Dictionary defines it asWhen one person feels they have a rivalry with another far superior person (Ole Miss). The superior person (Ole Miss) usually doesn’t know about it or feel that the little brother (MSU) is any kind of a threat. The little brother usually puts forth maximum effort in meaningless situations in order to get the feeling of a win over his rival.

In a medical definition, LBS is known as an inferiority complex,“An acute sense of personal inferiority resulting either in timidity or through overcompensation in exaggerated aggresiveness.”

I understand it is fun to joke and prod other fans, i will admit i enjoy that more than most.  But you have to realize these games are played by 18-22 year olds.  We as fans are not helping by stalking fans or fabricating recruiting violations that don’t exist.

There are some MSU fans that will never accept the fact that Ole Miss is a top 15 football program in bowl victories and has a rich football history.  Ole Miss has six SEC titles, three national championships, tons of All-Americans, NFL players that have made huge impacts in the NFL and have become house-hold names.  The Grove is known as college football’s tailgating mecca.

MSU just doesn’t have any of that.  It’s just the truth.  So you have to understand that some of their fans will be jealous.  The reality is that in today’s college football with the obstacles facing smaller schools like Ole Miss and State, MSU will likely never match the records of Ole Miss.

And it drives some of them crazy!

I really appreciate MSU fans.  One of my best friends has LBS.  Jake Wimberly, co-founder of this website and writer for Maroon and White Nation is ate up with Ole Miss jealousy.  He can’t stop comparing MSU to Ole Miss and that’s ok.

Don’t get me wrong. Not every MSU fan is like this. There are some really good State fans who don’t get caught up in all this personal hate.  Most MSU fans banter back and forth with some good-hearted ribbing with their Rebels friends and family in the spirit of the rivalry. I personally know some GREAT people who are State fans. So let me make this clear, this post is not about every single State fan out there.

So when you encounter one of these super fans (or as i call them, the “MSU Mafia”) just be understanding and give these guys some space.  Some of these guys just need to find another hobby or at least not get so upset when they lose a game.  It is just a game and when they learn to love MSU instead of hating Ole Miss, they will have a much better life.

Hey, I sat through 2010 and 2011 Ole Miss seasons and I didn’t shed a single tear or try to get a MSU fan fired because my team got beat.

To my Ole Miss friends, don’t react or even read any of this Ole Miss-hate/propaganda.  Just love them and give your little brother a shoulder to cry on.

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Georgia Tech v Ole Miss

Hugh Freeze Stakes Claim As The Best Coach In Mississippi History

In his three years at Ole Miss, Coach Hugh Freeze has amassed 24 wins, increasing his win total each year resulting in a 9 win season in 2014.  His 24 wins put Coach Freeze in some rare company in the State of Mississippi and in the SEC.

In fact, since World War II no one has been able to match Hugh Freeze’s three year win total in this State. Famed Ole Miss Coach Johnny Vaught started at Ole Miss with a bang in 1947 and won 17 games in his first two seasons, but a rebuilding year in 1949 resulted in only 4 wins.

Houston Nutt came to Ole Miss with a wealth of talent on the roster and won 9 games each of his first two years in ’08 and ’09 but had a disaster of a season in 2010 with only four wins.

David Cutcliffe had some good talent on his teams thanks to Tuberville and amassed 22 total wins from ’99 to ’01 and Billy Brewer won 15 from ’83 to ’85.

Going back through the annuals of Ole Miss history, the only Ole Miss coach with more than 24 wins in three years was Harry Mehre who won 25 from 1938 to 1940.

Coach Mehre played his college ball at Notre Dame from  1919-1922, then coached at Georgia for 10 years from 1928-1937 before moving over to Oxford.

(Read complete article at RebelNationMagazine.com)

Mentioning Freeze’s name along with Johnny Vaught and other legendary head coaches may raise some eyebrows, but also consider that Vaught averaged 7.6 wins per year over his 25 year career.  Freeze is at an even 8 win average so far.

What is even more impressive in Hugh Freeze’s three year record is the state of the program when he took over.  Freeze did not have multiple future NFL players on the roster as when Coach Nutt took over in 2008.  Freeze inherited a team with low morale, over 20 kids at risk of failing out of school and no real glimpse of daylight for the fans.

Freeze entered Ole Miss with personal expectations that it might take a few years to get the program back on track.  But after back-to-back bowls in his first two seasons, Freeze’s off season narrative changed to try to tamper fans’ expectations.

At the Regions’ pro-am golf tournament last May, Freeze responded to the topic of being ahead of schedule.  He stated, “Actually way ahead for me.  Some fans might not say that.  I kind of thought year 3 we would be fighting to get to a bowl game,” he said. “Having gone to two and won two, I think we’re ahead of schedule.”1

He made it well known to the fan base and to the media that they were not quite ready for SEC championships.  His honesty plus nine wins this year has further engendered him to the Ole Miss fan base.
Athletic director Ross Bjork rewarded Freeze this year with a big salary increase to reflect his win total by making him the 4th highest paid coach in the SEC with over $4 million per year.

It was once thought that Ole Miss was a stepping stone school.  A place where young coaches come to prove themselves and move on, or old coaches come to retire.

That is no longer the case.

With the recent success on the field, a current $150 million building campaign along with the existing facilities, Ole Miss is becoming a school that can legitimately compete for titles again.

It has been over 50 years since Ole Miss has won the SEC, but with the unique qualities of Hugh Freeze at the helm, Ole Miss is back in the national spotlight again

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If Ole Miss Never Was: A Look Back, To The Future?

Ole Miss people are passionate about Ole Miss.  No matter if you are just a fan or a big donor alumni, if you feel connected to the school, you are emotionally invested.

Let’s be honest.  Ole Miss does not win national championships very often in football and it does not provide one of the best degrees in the nation.  It is hard damn work being a fan of Ole Miss.  This school means something to us.

So, naturally, everyone has very strong opinions about how everything should be done in Oxford.  From coaching to concessions to the Lyceum, everyone thinks they know what is best for the school, and they just might fight you over it.

The Dan Jones/IHL dust up is just the latest in a never-ending public discussion surrounding Ole Miss.  When it comes down to it, people make decisions that affect the path and direction of the school.  The leadership at Ole Miss is also subject to public and political influence just like anyone else would be.

The victories and missed opportunities through her long history can be attributed to the success or failure of its leaders.

There is no need to review all the historical markers along the way.  Plenty of ink is spilled every year talking about 1962 reminding us of the shed blood on this campus.

I often have wondered why we have to see the face of James Meredith every time Ole Miss’ football team is put on TV.  But the fact remains that the University of Mississippi was a battle ground for a positive civil rights change in this state and nation.  And for better or for worse, we will never escape our place in history.

It is forever a part of this school and campus and if you don’t like it, you might as well move on and pick up a different color pom pom.

But because we can, i do think it is worth discussing the fantasy of “what if.”

What if, Ole Miss was never saddled with the familiar and sometimes controversial nickname and instead forged ahead with a more respectful UMiss?

What if this school never had to bear the weight of being THE University of the South and all the trappings that came with it.

What if instead this school was focused solely on the education of the people in this state and furthering understanding.

What if this school’s students never carried the confederate flag into a saturday afternoon battle on the football field or felt like the south needed to “rise again?”

What if instead of working to “become” a great American University, we embraced that goal 150 years ago?

Since i am a product of the Ole Miss Engineering school i think about Dr. A.P. Barnard.  If you are not familiar with his contributions to the University, you should look it up.

In 1854, Dr. Barnard joined the faculty in Oxford as one of the top mathematical professor’s in the world at the time.  A top graduate of Yale and a Massachusetts native, he began work at the University and soon became chancellor in 1856 until the outbreak of the Civil War.

In Dr. Barnard’s five years, he established world class laboratories with the best astronomical and scientific equipment available at the time.

The 2000 plate galvanic battery used to discover alkalies in the 19th century was housed in Oxford as well as the largest telescope in the world was being built at Ole Miss until the war halted its construction.

The students all went to battle and the school was razed.

The equipment as well as Dr. Barnard was shipped up north.  The telescope became a key feature at the Dearborn Observatory in Chicago.

Dr. Barnard landed at Columbia University and for the next 25 years, he led Columbia to become the world leader it is today.  He even helped establish a women’s college in New York because they could not attend Columbia at the time (Barnard College for Women).

The war was out of the control of politicians in Mississippi but the resistance that followed for the next 150 years to today has held our state University back.  You can’t deny that.

Could we be talking about UMISS in the same league as Columbia or Yale today?  Possibly, but that would have taken the halting of the war between the states.

Even though it is interesting and vitally important to go back and study our history we can not change any of it.  As i always say, “It is what it is.”

We do however have some control of our future.  Even though we have had many failures in this state over time, our greatest successes are still out there and available for us.

In order for those possibilities to become reality, you have to close the history book and open your mind.  Think about a University not named Ole Miss, not chained to just Mississippi and the sins of our fathers.

What would that look like?  Would it be better or just different?

I am not recommending changing the nickname of our beloved college and I am not even necessarily a fan of Dr. Jones.  But I would be selling myself and our University short if i didn’t ask the question.

“What if?”