10 Biggest What Ifs in Mississippi State Sports History

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9. What if Bob Tyler wasn’t so stubborn?

Bob Tyler was Mississippi State’s head football coach from 1973-1978. He had a combined record of 39-25-3, but due to forfeits his adjusted record is 21-44-2.

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 which MSU did not win. 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.

Bob Tyler was also the athletic director at the time, and after losing the 1978 Egg Bowl many Mississippi State fans were ready for him to leave. MSU president, James D. McComas, was willing to let Tyler remain at his position as head coach but he had to relinquish the A.D. job. He refused to comply and resigned in January of 1979.

Coach Tyler had Mississippi State football in a great position in the mid-70s and had Ole Miss on the ropes.  He had secured two extremely rare nine-win seasons and won three of four Egg Bowls prior to the 1978 game in which State was heavily favored over a mediocre Rebel team.

Ultimately, Tyler’s stubbornness was his undoing as he cost the MSU program at least one bowl game and potentially much more in future success on the gridiron.