May 15, 2009
Danny P Smith -
It has been 30 years since his first visit to Mississippi State''s Dudy Noble Field, but LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said his return this weekend is special.
Mainieri''s first experience at the Bulldogs'' home came in 1979 as a player at the University of New Orleans. The Privateers played in the NCAA tournament in Starkville that season.
Mainieri''s relationship with the MSU fans took a positive turn in 2000 when he was the head coach at Notre Dame.
Again, Mainieri was involved in NCAA Regional play and was impressed with the way the Bulldogs played host to the event and treated the Fighting Irish.
Mainieri said those experiences have "stayed with him for a lifetime."
As the coach at LSU, Mainieri knows he might not be as loved by MSU as he was when he was at Notre Dame, but he still enjoys his visits to Starkville.
"I love the people and the atmosphere there," Mainieri said. "I''ve always been very fond of the whole environment and the people of Starkville. I always look forward to going there."
Despite two seasons of playing sub-.500 baseball, the Bulldogs are still loved enough by fans to have an average attendance of 6,025 this season, which is fifth in the Southeastern Conference. A total of 5,559 season tickets were sold, which is second all-time at the school.
MSU coach John Cohen doesn''t take for granted what the fans mean to the program.
"Ever since we took over the program, the fans have been great," Cohen said. "I think they understand where they are and they have been nothing but supportive with what we''re trying to do."
Making the grade
MSU quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, likes the direction the football program is going when it comes to getting good grades in the classroom.
Having a winning team is important, but Lee was pleased to see the recent report that said 22 MSU football players had grade-point averages of 3.0, and 43 had a 2.5 or higher.
"That just goes to show we are working hard in and out of the classroom," Lee said.
Aaron Feld and Phillip Freeman had the best GPAs at 4.0, while Addison Lawrence was at 3.76, Lee had a 3.44, Anthony Dixon and Derek Sherrod, of Caledonia, stood at 3.25.
J.C. Brignone sported a 3.14 and Jamar Chaney had a 3.06.
The NCAA recently released its Academic Progress Report and football graded out at 933, its highest mark ever.
"Academics comes first," Lee said. "We love football and work hard at football, but to play football we have to keep our grades up."
Ticket ticker about out
Football fans who want to exercise their priority in the purchase of season tickets only have minutes to do so.
Today is the deadline to use priority-point total to determine the location of football season tickets. After that, ticket orders will be received Monday and filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne has been pleased with the response to season-ticket sales, but he hopes everyone will take advantage of a home schedule that includes games against Georgia Tech, LSU, Florida, Alabama, and Ole Miss.
"We still have a long way to go before we reach our ultimate goal and that''s selling out the football stadium in season tickets," Byrne said.
Single-game tickets will be available July 15, but Byrne anticipates some games will be sold out after the season-ticket sales period is complete.
The Bryan Building Athletic Ticket Office, which will be open until 5 p.m. today, can be reached by calling 662-325-2600.
Keeping eye on Dixon
MSU tailback Anthony Dixon should give fans something special to watch in the fall.
Consensus Draft Service, an on-line site that evaluates talent for the NFL, has Dixon on the second-team offense on its All-Southeastern Conference Team.
Dixon rushed 169 times for 668 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman in 2006. He increased his totals to 287 carries for 1,066 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2007. He had 197 carries for 869 yards and seven scores last season.
Dixon is expected to take on a larger role as a pass receiver. He might even throw a pass or two in coach Dan Mullen''s spread offense.
Q: May a prospect eat off campus in Starkville with coaches, student-athletes, and or institutional staff members during an unofficial visit?
A: Possibly, but only after July 1 following the prospects junior year of high school, only those coaches that can recruit off campus can be in attendance and only during a contact period for that sport. No institutional staff member or current student-athlete can have off-campus in-person contact with a prospect.