October 25, 2010 8:13:00 PM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- The future of cowbells rests in the hands of Mississippi State''s fans.
While it''s been the obvious component of the Southeastern Conference''s amended artificial noisemaker ban to help accommodate MSU''s greatest sporting symbol, the current margin for error is nil.
MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin confirmed Monday the SEC has notified the school it has violated the cowbell compromise.
"We''ve had ongoing communication with the league," Stricklin said. "I think it''s pretty obvious to anybody who was at the game (against UAB Saturday), we''re nowhere near where we needed to be on it."
MSU hasn''t been notified of how much it could be fined, which hinges on post-season evaluation of MSU''s compliance efforts.
But based on the SEC''s fine structure set in August, the fines stemming from violations from MSU''s two SEC home games against Auburn and Georgia can range anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000. The fine for the first offense is $5,000, while the penalty for the second is $25,000, and the third is $50,000 - the cap of the fine structure.
SEC spokesperson Chuck Dunlap said the league won''t reveal the amount of potential fines until the end of the season.
League commissioner Mike Slive told the Clarion Ledger a looming fine should be the least of MSU''s fan''s concerns, as the one-year trial will be re-evaluated next summer. The SEC could opt for a full-ban when the agreement expires.
"I know there''s been a focus, to some degree, on financial penalties but that focus is really misplaced," Slive said. "The real focus here should be on whether or not the legislation will be continued, so that State fans can bring their cowbells into the stadium years beyond this one."
Prior to this season, the SEC''s 36-year artificial noisemaker ban had essentially been violated at every MSU home game. League members weren''t happy with MSU''s efforts to police cowbells over that span, but since cowbells are a MSU spirit symbol that spans nearly 80 years, the SEC''s other schools were willing to give the one-year trial a go.
The amended legislation allows MSU fans to ring cowbells at Davis Wade Stadium during timeouts, before the game, after a score or during halftime. Cowbells cannot be used while the clock is running down.
What constitutes a fine has always been the gray area of the compromise; MSU''s mission has been to continually educate and inform the fan base.
"We weren''t really given a lot of detail there," Stricklin said. "I''m a perfectionist so I like things to be done right at every job. I don''t know what threshold they''re using in Birmingham. You''d have to ask the league that question."
The SEC won''t comment on the details of MSU''s penalties until the end of the season, Dunlap said.
MSU''s biggest game day effort to discourage improper cowbell use at Davis Wade Stadium has been the use of its high-definition video board. The urgency of the video messages have increased in recent weeks.
"This last Saturday night, our signage went from ''Respect the Bell'' to ''Save the Bell,''" Stricklin noted, "and it will continue along that path for these last two games. These next two games are going to be critical for the future of the cowbell."
Stricklin said the initial efforts to spread the message have grown to constant attempts to get the message clear, but there''s only but so much signage and meetings with student groups can accomplish.
The onus, Stricklin said, is on fans.
"At some point, there''s got to be a willingness from our fans to do this the right way," Stricklin said. "We''ve got a large segment of our fan base that''s tried to do it the right way, but it''s not been enough. We need everybody doing it that way.
"At this point I don''t think it''s an issue of educating the fan base, I think it''s for the last two games how important they think it is to us. If the cowbell is important, than they''ll manage it the right way. If it''s not, then we don''t need to worry because it''ll take care of itself. At this point, it''s going to be in the hands of everybody who loves Mississippi State."
No. 23 MSU hosts Kenutcky on Saturday and Arkansas on Nov. 20.