February 26, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The people who work behind the scenes in the Mississippi State athletic department are very important to athletic director Greg Byrne.
To recognize those individuals, Byrne has instituted the Department Employees Service Awards.
"We have a lot of people who work really hard every day, and all them give great effort in what they do," Byrne said. "Some set themselves apart, so we were just trying to say thank you. They are appreciative of it and it gets their name out there a little bit."
One of those people is Phil Silva.
For 25 years, Silva has devoted his time to the MSU football program as equipment manager.
"He''s been a wonderful part of our department for so many years, and we appreciate his great service," Byrne said.
Silva, who was surprised Byrne had chosen to recognize him, works in a first-class manner and knows he can''t do it alone.
"It''s just doing things the right way," Silva said. "I have real good students who work for me, too, and have for a long time. I''ve had a bunch of them. I''m the only guy in the league who doesn''t have a full-time assistant, but I''ve had some great student help in the 25 years I''ve been here."
Byrne has recognized others for their commitment to the Bulldogs.
Business office employee Brenda Edwards, ticket office assistant Brenda Lucas, and track coach Al Schmidt have been at MSU for 20 years, while basketball assistant coach Robert Kirby, compliance office administrative assistant Debbie Dearmon, football assistant coach Rockey Felker, and Web site coordinator John Cade are in 15 year tenures, football administrative assistants Angie Jabri and Susan Simmons and football assistant coach Melvin Smith have 10 years in, and Bart Gregory of the Bulldogs, Shaun Taylor of game operations, strength and conditioning coach John McCallister, and Jim Ellis of Learfield Communications have five years of service.
"The head coaches get a lot of notoriety," Byrne said. "You are only as good as the people around you, so it''s important they get noticed, too, and (that we) thank them for a job well done."
Byrne also chose football athletic trainer Justin Gremillion as the January Employee of the Month. Gremillion was in charge of the overall operations of the training room and worked with football while head athletic trainer Paul Mock was recovering from open heart surgery last fall.
MSU junior tennis player Radka Ferancova is a part of history, but she tries not to think too much about it.
Ferancova has yet to be taken to three sets this season in compiling a 7-0 record. Her strong start mirrors that of the Bulldogs, who are 7-0 for the first time in school history.
Whether she wins or loses a match, Ferancova wants to move forward.
"It''s not on my mind," Ferancova said of success or failure. "I just want to win. I know I get more confidence when I keep winning, but I''m not worried if I lose a match because I believe I can win any match. If I know I can make a point, I just go for it and it really doesn''t count what happened before."
Wins have come pretty easily for MSU lately. The latest was a 6-1 decision against Memphis.
The Lady Bulldogs are 65th in the nation, their highest ranking since opening the 2006 season at No. 33.
Tracy Lane, the winningest women''s tennis coach in MSU history, said the team is on course as it prepares for the start of Southeastern Conference play at Tennessee on March 6.
The Lady Bulldogs will face East Tennessee on Saturday before the league schedule begins.
"We wanted to start SEC play having won all of our non-conference matches," Lane said. "That''s been our one main goal, because the more matches you win, the more confidence you get going into the SEC season."
The women of MSU''s track and field team hope the indoor season has prepared them well for the SEC Indoor Championships this weekend in Lexington, Ky.,
Schmidt is anxious to see what his women will do at the championships, and hopes that their success will carry over to the outdoor season.
"We''re a better outdoor team," Schmidt said. "We''ve got such a young group and we''re hoping to get them outside."
LaQuinta Aaron, Diamond Marks, Marissa Harris, Wendy Copeland, Priscilla Gaines, Crystal Wilson, Dominque Lockhart, Candice Polk, Chelsea Rae Smyth, and Renee Masterson are some of the runners and jumpers Schmidt is counting on this weekend.
Harris is the leader of that group.
"She''s the defending outdoor champion in the multi, so I would think that would make her the favorite going into indoors," Schmidt said. "She''s an All-American indoors, and there will be pressure on her, but that''s why you are as good as you are. You have to learn to handle that."
Aaron, Marks, Harris, and Wilson will make up the 4x400-meter relay team that established the fourth-best indoor time in school history (3 minutes, 47.04 seconds) at the Tyson Invitational.
Lockhart, Polk, Smyth, and Masterson are part of the distance medley relay, while Copeland and Gaines will compete in the long jump.
"We''re looking for big things out of those kids," Schmidt said. "We''re also looking to bring up the younger group."
Getting out kinks
MSU women''s golf coach Christi Sanders has been around long enough to identify what a team needs to do to improve.
Sanders found where her squad is lacking after the Lady Bulldogs opened the season at the three-day Kiawah Island Women''s Intercollegiate in Kiawah Island, S.C.
MSU has a couple of weeks to work out the kinks before it returns to the links for the LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic on March 13.
The Kiawah Island event was played at two courses, one more difficult than the other.
"We just need to make sure we are hitting it hard," Sanders said. "Sometimes it''s a matter of just step up, grip it and rip it. (At the MSU course) where if it does go a little left or a little right off the tee, you are still able to punch out of the trees and hit close to a green. (At Kiawah Island) you are really penalized because your ball is either out of bounds or in a water hazard. You are having to take a drop, so we were losing a lot of strokes in distance penalties, and it really did hurt us."
The Lady Bulldogs finished tied for 22nd out of 43 teams. Mallory Batson shot a 17-over-par 223, which was tied for 25th individually.
Sanders said a top-12 finish would have suited her better.
"I felt like that is where my team should have been, but we just couldn''t accomplish that," Sanders said. "We''ll discuss those things and really work hard in practice to try to get ready for the next tournament."