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Wednesday, February 17, 2010
MSU fans hear it from school brass

By Eamonn Brennan

Last night, Mississippi State nearly missed its chance at upsetting Kentucky in Starkville, a win that would have vaulted MSU's tournament résumé to the top of the "maybe" pile. Naturally, when this opportunity evaded the Bulldogs -- thanks in part to a couple of questionable calls by referees down the stretch -- a few State fans decided they had the right to throw full water bottles onto the court, one of which nearly decked a referee. Not cool.

Of course, Mississippi State's athletics program and school officials are in charge of making sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again, and today they took one step toward doing that. Below is a letter from MSU athletic director Gregory Byrne -- titled "Great Atmosphere Overshadowed By Just A Few" -- that chastises MSU's fans for the ugly scene. The letter will go to season ticket holders and students. Hit the jump for the full read:



GREAT ATMOSPHERE OVERSHADOWED BY JUST A FEW

ESPN color analyst Jimmy Dykes said the university received a "black eye" last night, following our overtime loss to Kentucky. Because of the actions of a few, we embarrassed ourselves on national television and damaged the university's name.

The post-game events, in which some of our fans threw items on the playing floor, were totally unacceptable. It is our goal - one of our five defining principles as an athletic department - that we will act in a first-class manner as we compete for championships. We will never truly be considered winners - or champions - no matter the outcome of a game, if we do not act with class and integrity.

No matter what transpires on the court or the field, there is never justification for fans throwing debris, or acting in any other similar way, to demonstrate displeasure. It puts everyone in jeopardy of injury, and is just not the spirit of intercollegiate athletics. Thus, I am asking anyone who saw an individual throw debris on the court to come forward. Please contact me directly at byrne@athletics.msstate.edu. It is our intent to always act with class.

Our lack of sportsmanship started earlier in the week when some of our fans gained access to a Kentucky basketball player's cell phone number. According to the player, some of our folks bombarded his cell phone with calls and text messages, some of which may have been highly objectionable. We have asked University of Kentucky officials to provide us with the phone numbers associated with any objectionable messages.

In both cases, we will do our best to track down those individuals responsible and take appropriate disciplinary measures, which could include denial of future ticket privileges.

We have great fans. They are motivated, they cheer loudly, and they are passionate about their Bulldogs. I thank the vast majority of you who display great sportsmanship by supporting our university. But, we can't risk the reputation of the university and all the ideals we aspire to by the actions of just a few in a short period of time after a tough, close loss.

In the end, a great game between two great institutions and their basketball teams was ruined by a handful of individuals. Our Bulldogs, playing short-handed, competed at the highest level last night and it is unfortunate that our attention can't be focused on that fact.

We have shared our concerns with President Dr. Mark Keenum. Here are his thoughts:

"I was upset and disappointed that the ill-advised actions of just a few of our fans overshadowed a tremendous performance by our basketball team against the Kentucky Wildcats Tuesday night. This was an embarrassment for our university. That kind of behavior is totally unacceptable and far removed from the friendly and welcoming atmosphere that exists on the Mississippi State University campus. I have directed Athletic Director Greg Byrne to investigate the matter fully and to review security procedures to prevent this from ever happening again in Humphrey Coliseum. I have called University of Kentucky President Dr. Lee Todd to offer an official apology to the university, its basketball team and fans for this unfortunate incident."

Student body President Blake Jeter had this to say:

"It is unfortunate that the actions of a handful of fans could stain what would have otherwise been one of the best game atmospheres in many years at Mississippi State. It is certainly not a reflection on the outstanding character that our university community holds and is committed to maintaining; however, last night's events should not be tolerated.

"The student community here will be absolutely committed to ensuring that events like last night will not happen again in the future. We commend our basketball team for playing with Mississippi State spirit, and we as a student body will be committed to playing our part as well."