If the State of Mississippi was a Football Team

In an auditorium, deep in a generic state building, a man with a bad haircut and a rumpled jacket walks onto the stage. The crowd falls into silence as he speaks.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentleman.  My name is Yazoo Jones and I’m the athletic director for the state of Mississippi.  As you may be aware, we’ve had several seasons of budget cuts and slow economic growth.  I’m here today to announce a potential coaching change and that we have hired a search firm to begin looking for a new coaching staff.  Here at the state of Mississippi, we value our fans and have a commitment to winning. I will now open the floor for questions.”

Reporters shoot their arms up in unison.

Jones points to a grayheaded reporter in the front, “Yes Rick.”

“Yazoo, what kind of buyout would the coaches receive if they are fired?”

Jones looks at his feet, shuffles them a bit and then says, “If we make a change, it’s called SLRP, Rick — Supplemental Legislative Retirement Program.  They get a sweetened retirement.  And of course, the 13th check.  Emily?”

Another reporter stands up and asks, “You mentioned slow economic growth? How slow is it?

Jone pauses and then continues. “We want to put the best product on the field. We have amazing talent.  In fact, I’d say among the most talented in the nation. But we’re losing players to other states. And we have a revenue problem.  The Legislative Budget Committee, projects the state will collect less general fund tax revenue than last year. This has happened three out of four years since 2016. And it doesn’t seem to get any better — the  projection for next season is only .37 percent more than what was collected five years ago.  Our program isn’t moving forward.  We are stuck at 5 and 5.”

The next reporter asks, “What about tax cuts?”

Jones shrugs. “Good question Hugh. They were promised to spur economic growth.  Doesn’t seem like that is happening yet. But you do have more money in your pocket.  You can use that to fix your car’s front end from the potholes in state roads or use it toward your kid’s rising tuition.”

The reporter follows up, “But there’s a lot of waste.”

Jones nods, “Yeah, it’s state government.  That happens. We’re hoping a potential new head coach can help make the program more efficient. But we’re cutting into the marrow now. The waste we find won’t be able to fund the needs we have. Tuition increases at colleges, teachers having to buy their own supplies, cuts in Medicaid, Health Department cuts, bad bridges and roads — that’s not waste. That’s hurts the program.”

Another reporter raises his hand, “Will the search committee look for someone within the program?”

Jones rubs his double chin and says, “Yes. Mississippi has leadership out there.  Our current coaches are talented, too. It’s just that something isn’t working.”

A voice from the audience chimes out, “You sound like a liberal.”

Jones chuckles a little bit and then gets a very serious look on his face. “This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue.  This is about winning.  Our program is stuck in neutral and we need to get it moving.  I don’t want to raise ticket prices. I want to make our product on the field so compelling that people are willing to come here and be a part of it.  We have the talent. We need to inspire that talent now.  We need to coach up our three-star recruits through education and keep our five-star recruits in the state.  We can’t burn the program to save it. But the people of Mississippi are fired up. They love their state.”

Another reporter asks, “what’s the time frame?”

Jones walks back to the podium and says, “We have two years to decide if we want to keep our current coaches or get new ones. Boosters and fans need to pay attention to the news and see what direction the program is going.  Then in November, we will vote to make a change or not. One last question.”

A voice comes out of the very back, “What about the team flag?”

Jones looks weary and sighs, “Just don’t put a black bear on it.”

 

 

About Marshall Ramsey