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Croom can walk away with his head held high

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It's really immaterial whether Sylvester Croom resigned, whether he was fired or whether his exit as Mississippi State's football coach fell somewhere in between.

Croom had done it his way ever since taking over a Mississippi State program riddled with NCAA sanctions and in serious need of a thorough deep cleaning.

But no matter how much you admire Croom's impeccable character and appreciate his place in SEC history, his way had worn out its welcome.

That and a West Coast offense that never ranked higher than 103rd nationally in total offense during his five seasons in Starkville.

There are so many things to like about Croom, the first black head football coach in SEC history. He's as honest as the day is long, the kind of coach you'd want your son to play for and fiercely loyal.

He's also unbelievably stubborn.

The quickest way to get on Croom's bad side is to tell him what he needs to do with his football team. So the more everybody (fans, media, boosters) began telling him that he needed to make certain changes with his offense and his staff, the more Croom dug in.

Some call that being hard-headed. Croom calls it being principled.

Even Croom's most loyal supporters were concerned this might be coming as this season continued to sour. And that's despite the fact that the Bulldogs won eight games and the Liberty Bowl a year ago, and Croom walked away with SEC Coach of the Year honors and a new contract that paid him $1.7 million annually.

But the 45-0 drubbing by Ole Miss on Friday was the kind of embarrassing defeat Croom simply couldn't survive.

So he walks away and leaves what is easily one of the toughest jobs in the SEC to someone else.

Although Croom didn't win a lot of football games at Mississippi State (21-38 overall), he won a lot of respect for the way he carried himself, the way he restored a sense of pride and a code of doing things the right way. His legacy should serve the program well for years to come.