September 1, 2009 11:52:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State has looked into the possibility of playing in-state schools more often as its athletic department looks for ways to make trips closer to home and to save money.
MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne said Monday the school is open to playing opponents in Mississippi as long as it fits what it''s trying to do competitively and financially and the game meets its scheduling philosophy.
The Bulldogs'' goal is to schedule seven home games every year, and Byrne likes the chances of doing that on a consistent basis. The only year that won''t be the case in the near future is 2011.
When MSU plays Jackson State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, it''s the first time since 1990 (Southern Mississippi) the Bulldogs have played an in-state school against someone other than Ole Miss.
It also will be the first time the football programs have met, and the first time a team from the Southeastern Conference has faced the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
MSU coach Dan Mullen said games against in-state schools creates excitement not seen in other matchups.
He has been a part of those games as an assistant at Bowling Green (against Toledo), at Utah (BYU), and at Florida (Florida State).
Mullen hopes the Bulldogs can generate similar interest by playing Jackson State or other in-state opponents.
"Anytime you have those in-state rivalry games, it adds a little extra excitement, not just for our program and our team, but also for the entire state," Mullen said. "It''s an unbelievable kickoff for the college football season for the people of Mississippi."
Mullen said the players can identify with players, coaches with coaches, families with families, and fans with fans.
MSU hasn''t ruled out the possibility of renewing the series against Southern Miss, as Byrne and USM Athletic Director Richard Giannini have a good relationship and the subject has come up about playing.
Although Byrne didn''t mention Southern Miss by name, he doesn''t see why the Bulldogs can''t schedule more games against teams from the state of Mississippi.
"I think it''s a good thing to keep the money in state if possible," Byrne said.
Byrne said MSU was talking with a Big 10 school and another from out West about a home-and-home series, but those just didn''t work out economically.
"The charter price alone is $150,000 just for one game," Byrne said. "The reality for travel cost warrants if you can play in the region that makes sense."
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