Someone once said there’s not a person alive that doesn’t reflect back on their life and say “what if’. What if I had taken that job 20-years ago, or – what if I had never done this or that. Sadly, life is full of regret, over-thinking and reflection.
The same can be said for towns, cities, states and even countries as they make decisions that may or may not be the best decisions in the long run for their own people.
The State of Mississippi, while having a proud heritage falls in this very category of regret.
One of the big topics that always pop up every year is what if Mississippi had one university? How good would football be? This is a debate that is never ending and one that always raises the question of what if?
But – what IF the state did in fact have one university? With over ten four- year universities and 15 junior colleges, what if way back when, the state had decided on one state university? Yes you would still have a few smaller institutions pop up here and there but what would the state truly look like if we could go back and do things differently? Let’s take a look.
What if, back in 1848, the State of Mississippi chose to locate the University of Mississippi in Jackson – the capitol city?
Ole Miss is the oldest university within the state so it makes sense to start here.
The state of Mississippi should have donated, purchased or allocated a good portion of the down-town metro area to the “state” university, when talking about where to build the University of Mississippi.
If this would have happened, the name would have been just that, “the University of Mississippi”. Sorry Mississippi State fan, Southern Miss fan or Jackson State fan. This writer is an alumnus of MSU, but it would make sense if the state had one university, it should be called just that – THE University of Mississippi. We can debate the mascot and school colors at a later date.
If this had happened, today you would probably see the state university encompass all of the Belhaven and Millsap’s area. UMC could be almost exactly where it is today, Veterans Memorial could be the location of the football facility and farm land in the suburbs could be used for agricultural studies. It would be a one stop shop for law school, business, engineering, agriculture, polymer science and more.
The City of Jackson would take on the shape of an entirely different place today. Like most all university towns, Jackson would have built around the university, embracing everything it has to offer.
What about the enrollment numbers you might ask? If you took the numbers of all the universities in the state of Mississippi, you would be looking at an enrollment of about 70,000 college students. That would far exceed Texas A&M, who has the highest enrollment in the SEC to date at 58,809.
Now to the good stuff – football and keep in mind, we are looking at this entire scenario as if your favorite university never existed.
McKeen went 65-19-3 in a ten year stretch at Mississippi State. Photo courtesy of www.snipview.com
Once things got off the ground, it would be assumed, former Mississippi State head coach Allyn McKeen would have coached the University of Mississippi from 1939-1947. McKeen posted a 65-19 record with the Bulldogs. It makes sense if you combine the talent around the state, He may not lose ten ball games.
McKeen would then be followed by Johnny Vaught. Can you imagine adding the likes of DD Lewis and others to Vaught’s squad? Id dare say you would be talking about Vaught like people refer to Bear Bryant today. Vaught would be the standard of coaching today, not Bryant.
It is also to be assumed Darrell Royal would have been on Vaught’s staff and probably would have garnered interest elsewhere.
It is assumed Emory Bellard would have probably followed Vaught, and had Archie “the gun slinger” Cooley on his offensive staff. Cooley, Bobby Collins or Jim Carmody, could have followed Bellard, then Curley Hallman and Jeff Bower may have been next. Which begs the question would Jackie Sherrill even be a name affiliated with Mississippi college football lore? The same can be said about Billy Brewer and Tommy Tuberville.
You can also assume Walter Peyton would be one of the SEC’s all-time running backs; John Bond would have been throwing to Jerry Rice and running the triple option with Sammy Winder – and Brett Favre would have been a first round pick due to all the talent around him.
Jerious Norwood would have been playing behind Eli Manning and Romaro Miller, along with Deuce McAllister, they would have been teamed up with the vaunted 1999 MSU defense and several other future NFL players from Southern Miss.
Even Peyton Manning probably would have played for this version of the University of Mississippi, not Tennessee.
You can mix and match players through eras and what you come up with is this. Mississippi would have had the largest university in the SEC and maybe the country. Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium would probably look like Tiger Stadium and rival the Big House in Michigan, for size. I dare say Mississippi would have double digit national titles.
Eli, Archie and Peyton Manning would all have at least one national title a piece. Brett Favre and Deuce McAllister would also probably have a ring, as would Jerry Rice and Walter Peyton.
Marcus Dupree probably would have never gone out of state and you could just about forget Alabama or Auburn coming into the state and taking away top talent.
Fast forward to today. Mississippi would be the favorite again to win the SEC and maybe the National Title. Robert Nkemdiche would play alongside Chris Jones. Laquan Tredwell would team up with De’Runnya Wilson and others to form the best receiving core in the country. This past year, Nick Mullens, Bo Wallace and Dak Prescott would provide depth out of this world at quarterback.
What about the coach you ask? Well that’s easy. It would be Nick Saban and why not? Mississippi would have the budget, fan support, history and heritage to hire Saban and probably would have done so back in 2000. Because of how great this team would be, Saban never would’ve gone to LSU, the NFL or Alabama. He would be on a 14-year run, winning in the Magnolia State.
Which means Todd Monken, Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen would be coaching elsewhere – not in Mississippi.
Marcus Dupree is lauded as arguably the greatest football player to ever come out of Mississippi high school football. Courtesy of nola.com
Mississippi college football has had some great years and has a proud history. From USM’s run with Jeff Bower to Mississippi State under Jackie Sherrill and Ole Miss under Johnny Vaught. We have a proud history and more to come, when you are talking about football.
But – it never hurts to take a walk back in time and see this state missed the boat and could have been a football and university dynasty.
Every one of you could have generations of photos with the crystal ball, posing at Wal Mart- but so is life.
We are now faced with the harsh reality that nobody in this state may ever get one, much less multiple championships and that’s OK.
I think most fans today would agree they like their university of choice, their traditions and their own colors. They wouldn’t dare trade them for anything.
But – it still makes you wonder what life would be like today, had the decision makers settled on one university, in one place.
Alabama fans would hate us because we would be them – times 10, Notre Dame’s golden dome would be irrelevant, Texas would understand Mississippi is the only thing bigger than they were and the west coast would never dare come to these parts – because that’s just how dang good this team would’ve been through the years.
This team would’ve been college football’s golden child, if we hadn’t dropped the ball in 1848.