March 9, 2018 10:17:15 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The first salvo missed its mark.
Maybe an accompanying riff from sonic pioneer Tom Morello would help the cause.
A better idea might be to package a recording device inside a cardboard box and send it out to all of the voters who have a say in The Associated Press' Coach and Player of the Year and the annual All-America squad.
The recording device would be similar to the ones in the birthday cards you get that play a favorite song when they open. Instead of the latest pop music smash greeting you on your birthday, the cheers of 10,794 fans in Humphrey Coliseum would assault the senses of AP voters much like the music of Morello and his former band mates in Rage Against the Machine.
If you remember, the crowd of 10,794 -- a record at the Hump -- watched the Mississippi State women's basketball team's 67-53 victory against South Carolina on Feb. 5. The victory was part of MSU's 16-0 run through the Southeastern Conference regular season that secured the program's first league title.
Let that sink in. MSU went 16-0 in the regular season in the nation's toughest conference. It completed the first undefeated regular season by a SEC team since Tennessee in 1998. The Bulldogs did it after losing two Ameshya Williams and Jacaira "Iggy" Allen. Williams likely would have started at forward, while Allen would have split time at guard and forward after a preseason that had coach Vic Schaefer glowing. Williams left the program and school, while Allen suffered a season-ending injury.
Those facts should be enough to secure Schaefer AP Coach of the Year honors. It doesn't take into consideration he probably deserved the award last season, too, after guiding MSU to its first trip to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. MSU also recorded one of the biggest victories in the history of the sport when it beat four-time reigning national champion Connecticut in the national semifinals.
The problem with advocating for players -- like for MSU senior Victoria Vivians to win SEC Player of the Year honors -- and coaches is you don't know if anyone is paying attention. It hurts, too, that The AP asks its voters to submit their votes too early. Last year, the votes were in well before MSU defeated UConn. If the deadline for voting had been following the national semifinals, there is a good chance Schaefer would have won the award. Instead, Auriemma won it for the ninth time.
That's why voters from across the country need help. If you were in the Hump for MSU's game against South Carolina, you witnessed one of the best sporting atmospheres in the history of women's basketball. When coach Schaefer says there is something special in Starkville, he is right. He has provided a blue print for coaches to build their programs. There aren't any excuses. It takes plenty of hard work and the energy to connect with your fans. Having players who embrace that and then sacrifice their bodies on the court help create an even hotter ticket.
Six years ago, people questioned Schaefer when he left his job as associate head coach at Texas A&M to take the job at MSU. Six years later, he has developed players like Vivians, who should have been SEC Player of the Year based on her significant improvement in numerous statistical categories. The work done by Schaefer and coaches Johnnie Harris, Dionnah Jackson-Durrett, and Carly Thibault-DuDonis has enabled Teaira McCowan, Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and Jazzmun Holmes to improve their skills and create a chemistry that has MSU among the national leaders in numerous categories.
College Sports Madness rewarded some of that work Thursday when it named Vic Schaefer its National Coach of the Year and Vivians a first-team All-American. The honor for Vivians comes a day after she was named a first-team All-American by USA Today.
The AP All-America team usually is released around the Elite Eight. Maybe the coaches will get together at the Final Four and encourage The AP to move the deadline for its voting back. Maybe the national media will allow the season to play out a little longer to cast its votes.
There's no telling how this year's voting will play out. The only thing for certain is one AP voter is going to vote for Schaefer for AP Coach of the Year, Vivians for first-team All-American, and Morgan William for third-team All-American. Here's hoping all of the voters haven't submitted their ballots and are willing to listen.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. You can reach him at
[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.