Who said Valentine’s Day meant that love was in the air?
That school of thought doesn’t necessarily apply to the SEC, and it especially doesn’t apply to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. As we know, the battle in the Magnolia State is heated year-round. When one school is in the news for something negative, it makes it easy for the other to pile on.
We got a good reminder of that on Wednesday following news that Ole Miss would be forced to vacate wins from 2010-16 as the final punishment from the NCAA’s ruling. Bo Bounds, who hosts a show on ESPN 105.9 FM called “Out of Bounds with Bo Bounds,” went on “The Paul Finebaum Show” and delivered this take on Ole Miss.
"I can gauge the temperature of the fanbase and I don't think Ole Miss fans are excited to renew their season tickets. They're beat down and it's just one more thing after another."
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) February 12, 2019
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork wasn’t on board with that.
He took to Twitter to share his disagreement with Bounds’ take on the state of Ole Miss fans:
Rare is it that an athletic director feels the need to hop on social media to discredit a member of the media. That’s what earned this story a spot in #ItMightMeanTooMuch.
But obviously Bjork wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t feel strongly that Bounds’ assessment was off the mark.
While Bjork is, ironically enough, biased, there’s one thing that he has over Bounds — season ticket information. Bjork has access to numbers and data that Bounds is basing off social media and the people he interacts with on his show (Bounds also estimated that 90 percent of Ole Miss fans don’t believe Matt Luke is the long-term guy). So regardless of who is actually more in touch with the emotions of Ole Miss fans, that’s something that can’t be denied.
There’s something else that can’t be denied. Ole Miss no longer has a bowl ban. This year will mark the first time since 2016 that the Rebels can play in the postseason, so would it make sense that now they’re “beat down?” In theory, wouldn’t it make more sense that the fan base is energized by that possibility?
Until we actually see what the final Ole Miss season ticket numbers look like, we won’t know if Bjork or Bounds made the better point. But regardless of who’s right, I can’t blame Ole Miss fans if attendance numbers have taken a bit of a hit recently. There aren’t a ton of fan bases who would still average north of 55,000 fans for a mediocre team that can’t play in a bowl game.
It’s worth noting that these are the Rebels’ average home attendance numbers the past 3 years:
- 2016 — 64,910 (sold out every home game)
- 2017 — 58,631
- 2018 — 55,685 (unofficial)
In Ole Miss’ defense, college football also underwent its biggest attendance decrease in 32 years in 2017. And despite the postseason ban, the Rebels were ranked No. 26 nationally in home attendance. The 2018 numbers haven’t come out yet, but it would be surprising if that was still the case with the 5-win, bowl ban season.
And in Bounds’ defense, he actually did say he believes that Ole Miss will win again. Bjork just quoted the Finebaum tweet. Here was more of Bounds’ quote:
“I think Ole Miss people right now, apathy has set in. They are going to take a big hit with season tickets, which stinks,” Bounds said. “I can get a read on my show as far as the level of excitement — and it’s just not there. Now they are going to win again, Paul. You’ve been covering this league forever, there’s too much pride in 90 percent of the programs in the SEC, at least, and Ole Miss is going to win again. I don’t know when that is, I don’t know when they will throw up an 8-4 a 9-3 or even better.”
OK, I guess it was more of a back-handed compliment.
My new favorite Australian Alabama fan
Meet Tommy O’Rourke. He’s just your average Australian who enjoys a little rugby and a whole lot of Alabama football.
We interviewed Tommy on The SDS Podcast to discuss his Crimson Tide fandom from Down Under, amongst other things (if there’s a shortage of Texas Pete and Bud Light in Australia, you know who to find). Tommy fell in love with Alabama football in 2008, and he has since made the Crimson Tide his fall weekend tradition.
“I basically stumbled across it one day and I just absolutely fell in love with Alabama football,” Tommy said.
Keep in mind that in Australia, he’s actually 16 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. That means when Alabama kicks off at noon ET, that’s a 4 a.m. start for Tommy. So when you’re nursing your hangover on Saturday morning and feeling sorry for yourself that you have get up for your early kickoff, remember that there are people like Tommy waking up at 4 a.m. on a Sunday.
What’s also dedication is that back in 2008, Tommy actually put on his Facebook page that he attended Alabama even though he has never been … and he forgot to update it for years. But nobody ever called him out on it, so no harm, no foul?
As for when Tommy is actually planning to make the trip to Tuscaloosa, the hope is sometime next year. His goal? See the Iron Bowl, of course.
Shoot, based on the increase of adult, Australian punters being recruited to play at big-time Power 5 schools, perhaps that’s Tommy’s path to witnessing some SEC football.
“I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’ve been known to kick a football,” Tommy said with a laugh. “Anybody out there who’s ready for a new punter, sign me up.”