If you look back in the record books you might be surprised to find back-to-back 0-11 seasons in 1976 and 1977. And a 2-9 season in 1975 that followed a 9-3 finish in ’74 with a #17 ranking and Sun Bowl win? Well – that’s because of a phony probation cast against Mississippi State during the Bob Tyler era. One that cost MSU one of their best seasons ever, a 9-2 record in 1976.
The NCAA penalties stemmed from defensive lineman Larry Gillard who accepted a discount at a local clothing store. One problem: every student got the same discount.
The NCAA declared Gillard ineligible for the 1975 season but Coach Tyler decided to fight the ruling by filing suit with the Chancery Court, which gave him an injunction allowing Gillard to play. The Bulldogs went on to a 6-4-1 record that year including a win over LSU in Baton Rouge.
Gillard continued to play in 1976. For only the third time in the history of MSU football, the Bulldogs won 9 games; only losing to Florida and Alabama. Wins included Auburn, LSU and OM. State finished third in the SEC that year.
1977 was the same story – Gillard played. The Dawgs went 5-6 and won the Egg Bowl.
Gillard’s case was tried before the Mississippi Supreme Court. Unfortunately justice was not served as is the case many times when you go up against the law school in your state. The appeal was lost, and all games Gillard played in were forfeited by MSU.
The sad news is that had Coach Tyler accepted the original punishment of being suspended for the 1975 season, Gillard would have been eligible for ’76 and ’77. He thought common sense and logic would prevail – but he was wrong.
These instances are why many maroon faithful have lost hope in any kind of fairness with regards to the NCAA. And when going up against the corruption of Ole Miss, it’s hard to win.