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

REBEL YELL

The diamond has been unkind to Ole Miss this year.  They have seen a few games slip from their grasp.  After several games of double digit hits, that produced single digit runs, a year where a dominating first 8 innings have produced a porous 9th, a year of breaking even with two of the best teams in the country but losing too many road games.

The youth of this baseball team is showing, but after the first series of the second half of the season, in what was a must win series in Oxfor d against Arkansas, they pulled through in dramatic fashion. 

After battling through a rain delay in the Friday game and pulling out a 8-2 win, the Rebs won a spectacular pitching duel on Saturday, 1 to zero, where starters Mike Mayers and R.J. Hively both pitched; Hively coming out of the bullpen for the first time this year.

Winning the series in the first two games is the goal of any college baseball program.  The next step for this team is completing the sweep.

Sundays score?  11 to 3, Arkansas, after chasing freshman Sam Smith in the second inning.  Bianco has to settle on a pitching staff, and I can’t argue with winning two out of three, but this was a great opportunity to sweep.   This team seems to be one pitcher away from being special.

The season is now down to 4 weeks.  Ole Miss finds itself in a familiar position looking up at LSU in second place in the western division.

A trip to Starkville this weekend will be a great chance for the Reb’s to go on the road and gain some momentum, provided they can get the two out hit.

MSU has been on the outside looking in for most of the season, but after a recent sweep of Tennessee, they are in a close 4th in the division, right behind the Rebels.

The Dawgs were easily turned away last week by the Rebels 6-3 in a non-conference matchup in Jackson.  More of the same will be necessary if Ole Miss hopes to fight through to Omaha.

REASONS TO CELEBRATE BJORK

If you’re an Ole Miss Fan or Alumnus, you should be excited for this day.  Today Ole Miss finally pulls back the curtains, opens the windows, and lets the sun shine on the back room-dealing Good Ole Boy network.  The “GOB,” much like the wicked witch of the West, is dead, and all of us fans (even the GOB themselves) should find reason to rejoice.

I am solidly in the new-age camp of OM fans, the group that wants new leadership, new ideas, a new direction.  For many years (actually every year until now) I have been in the minority.  My likeminded group has always been told to “sit down and shut up, continue paying your dues and season tickets.”

Finally, and after way too long of a wait, common sense has prevailed over tradition and privilege.  You can mark this day down as the day Ole Miss moves forward.

These are my reasons to celebrate the hiring of Ross Bjork as the new athletic director at Ole Miss

1. Bjork is not an Ole Miss Alum.

College Campuses are an alternate reality, by design, insulated from the outside world.  Many of the traditions at a college, and especially Ole Miss, are held dear by alumni.  But there is a fine line that must be walked by the college leadership between fostering this “bubble” and making it safe and fun and unique, while at the same time keeping it relative to the outside world.

Ole Miss has lost their way, and wandered far off this line, long ago.  There is something to be said for a AD candidate that understands Ole Miss and can market to this specific environment, but what we need the most is to operate the University in the 21st century.

2. We can relate to Bjork.

Bjork is not a legendary football player from the 60’s, he will not be a secluded figure head that rules without any input from those around him.  Bjork is accessible, he is young, and savvy on social media.  He actually has worked his way up the ladder and earned this position, not given the job because of his father or other connections.  He is more like the majority of Alumni instead of the top 10 percent, who usually run the school.

3. He is a decision maker.

Bjork has shown he can make the hard decisions, and quickly upgraded the coaching staff at Western Kentucky.  He didn’t make popular decisions or bow to compromised influences.  He made the right choices to improve the school.  Winning is the only thing that is important.

4. He understands his role

Bjork understands (based on what I have gathered) that an AD’s role is to steer the helm of the Athletic Department.  To get the best coaches and staff possible, give them the resources they need to be successful, and let them coach.  This is going to be liberating for the existing coaches in Oxford, who have become accustomed to walking on egg shells around the current AD.  No more last minute cuts in expenditures.  No more bus trips to Baton Rouge or Athens.  No more Jerry Jones-esqe ADs watching over your shoulder.

5. The fan base can heal

There are still a slew of issues that are unresolved at OM, from mascot fiascos to image branding, poor decisions on hiring or firing of coaches, ect.; way too much to get into for this article.  But with a confident, even handed AD, who is professional and gathers the trust of the alumni, we can begin to heal.  We can put the past to bed and the entire fan base can begin to look in one direction.

I am not happy with all the changes we have seen at OM the last 10 years, and I’m sure the next 10 will bring more changes I am not excited about, but I will put my personal issues aside and trust that Bjork will do what he can to sail the flagship University of Mississippi into calm waters.

Will he be perfect? No.  He may be too young and out of touch for most of the Alumni to embrace.  But we don’t need a yes man.  We need someone to get their hands dirty, get out of the country club, and make Ole Miss relevant again. 

And that is good for all of Mississippi.

IS DAN MULLEN RAISING THE STAKES IN MISSISSIPPI

Originally published in the March/April issue of Mississippi Sports Magazine www.mssportsmagazine.com

By MakeItRainSports Featured Columnist –

In 2008, the dynamics of college football in the State of Mississippi were decidedly different than they are today.  Ole Miss was on a huge upswing due to solid recruiting by former coach Ed Orgeron and the excitement of new Head Coach Houston Nutt.  Mississippi State while coming off a bowl game in 2007 was not able to build off that win and were headed for a 45 to 0 drubbing by Ole Miss in the eggbowl.  Southern Miss was feeling out new coach Larry Fedora and had to have felt lucky to get to the New Orleans Bowl after a 2-6 start to the season.

MSU’s Athletic Director Greg Byrne, immediately fired Sylvester Croom after the poor showing in Oxford that November, and promised, like many had before him, that a national search would ensue.  Byrne promised the Bulldog faithful, the football program would be transformed.  The next coach would have “energy,” “charisma,” and “hard working.”  But isn’t that just standard speech for an athletic director in Mississippi.

The State of Mississippi has long been recognized as a fertile recruiting hotbed.  A State that has lost many of the best and brightest of the year’s recruiting crop to the States of Louisiana or Alabama.  What is left over by bigger schools are split between MSU, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and multiple SWAC schools.  All having much smaller annual budgets and facilities than the surrounding States.

All these factors and more over time has cemented Mississippi athletics’ as a second or third tier within the SEC.  Few if ever have Olemiss and MSU been at the top of the SEC standings, or even near the top.  So, the words of Greg Byrne had to ring somewhat hollow outside the MSU faithful.

Byrne found himself offering the reins of the program to then 36 year old Dan Mullen, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the University of Florida.  

Byrne said about Mullen,”He has a confidence about him as a coach and as a person and he had confidence in his plan, in being able to go into Mississippi State and concentrate on what his strengths were.”

Florida QB Tim Tebow said,”They are going to get a coach who likes to work, who will do a great job.  They will have success because of the way he is.”

By any measurement this looked like a solid hire, expecially, considering the state of MSU’s football program at the time, but what Byrne didn’t know was the total effect this hire would eventually have on the entire state of Mississippi.

Mullen quickly made his strategy for rebuilding MSU known.  He went right at Ole Miss, and claimed MSU would dominate recruiting, and that MSU would soon be the “one” school for all Mississippians to play and cheer.  He held nothing back in pumping excitement into the program.  He even reached back into the Woodie Hayes days and branded Ole Miss, “The School Up North,” using the similar nickname Ohio State used for Michigan.

Ole Miss looked to be very strong heading into 2009, coming off one Cotton Bowl win and ultimately won another after a top 5 start in the preseason poll.  MSU only won 5 games in 2009, but one of them was a decisive, 45-31 win over Ole Miss in Starkville, after which, Mullen stated, ”There’s only one team that’s on the rise in this state.”

2010 brought a nine win season and another egg bowl victory over Ole Miss, which led to Mullen saying, “This team (Ole Miss) will never beat us again.”

Mullen’s rhetoric whether part of his overall plan or half happen stance, proved to be effective at taking the momentum away from Ole Miss and very quickly surpassing them as the best program in the State.  A highly effective billboard marketing campaign used the term, “Our State” as a play on words of Mississippi State controlling college football in the State of Mississippi. 

Mullen’s brash tones were not ignored by other programs. 

Larry Fedora at Southern Miss joined in the billboard wars by pointing out, “We are proud of the fact that all the great players from the state of Mississippi on this team have an opportunity to actually play for a championship.”  Pointing out the CUSA championship USM won over Houston last year.

Delta State took out full-page newspaper ads to promote their multiple national championships in Division II Gulf South Conference.

Mullen energized the entire State of Mississippi like no other coach ever has.  Many claim his Northern disposition will eventually be his downfall; they feel this stirring of the fan base, is somewhat classless and doesn’t put MSU in the best light.  But I will tell you this is a good thing for Mississippi.

Look at the State of Alabama, where play on the field and off is fierce all year long.  Even the most recent transplant is forced to choose a side between Alabama and Auburn, and alumni put their money where their mouth is.

Now more than ever, all football schools in Mississippi are improving the coaching staffs, improving the facilities, and pushing for better talent during recruiting.  And the fans are “all-in” behind their respective schools (Just take a quick listen to a radio talk show or a visit to a fan message board).

Mullen continues to push the envelope whenever possible, whether it is to openly turn down a job that he may or may not have been offered, or to remind the rest of the state who he thinks is the best school and fan base.  Mullen has turned the heat up on the other schools, hopefully for good.

In a southern state with so much history and football tradition, the schools have just been going through the motions, for years.  But thanks to a Yankee football coach from Pennsylvania, the title of the Best in Mississippi means something again.

 This passion, this fire, this desire to win by all schools: This is our State.

Meet MakeItRainSports

This is a guest article from my compadre Carlos (@justagigilo).  SECJams or myself are in no way responsible for the content hereof or his twitter content that you no doubt feel compelled to partake.

Hola from #makeitrainsports

If we started in the 1930s, we would have been the Marx brothers. If we started in the 1970s, you would watch MIRS, instead of ESPN. Instead, we started in the 2010’s and you get a twitter and facebook page (which are still open for advertising and sponsors, by the way).

#makeitrainsports (#MIRS) has become the bane of existence of sports personalities from the local morning talk show to the twitter wars with Scott Van Pelt during Sportscenter.  The phrase was coined by myself, but evermore developed and driven by Ray (@notjoeleedunn) and all our great friends who were looking for a similar outlet.

What started as a small group of friends on twitter has grown into a 24/7 sports roundtable of fans from Arizona to Florida to Boston.  Still with strong MS Sports/SEC slant, #MIRS represents the “every-man,” the true fan; the guy drinking lite beer and putting ketchup on everything.  The guys who may never attend a Superbowl but would rather watch the game anyway with his buds.

Teaming up with SECJams further expands our goals and expectations, and we are excited to see where this goes. Like most projects, you tend to set your goals too low. My original, end all, be all, prayer, was to film a #MIRS used car commercial with @tiffanyboyte (she never responds to me anymore). But now I can set a much higher goal, to get press passes to Olemiss games (reach for the stars kids, you might just get the moon).

Thanks to SECJams and get ready for a wild ride.

In the words of Billy Madison, “That puppy was a dog…but the industry…that was a revolution”.  Viva la revoluticiones!!!