Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday 27th June 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
Here are this weeks headlines….
The Mannings are considered football royalty, first and foremost in and around Oxford, Mississippi. Except Peyton, who is roundly criticised as a traitor. But that is another story for another time.
If you are ever fortunate enough to drive around the beautiful Ole Miss campus you will see some strange road signs, marking out the campus speed limit as 18 miles per hour. Archie Manning wore the #18 jersey for the Rebels. This is how adored the Mannings are in Oxford.
Until this week, Ole Miss had only retired two jerseys in it’s history – #18 of Archie Manning and #38 of Chucky Mullins. Oh and if you don’t know the story of Chucky Mullins, go google him now. Right now.*
But this week the Ole Miss Rebels announced that they would retire the #10 jersey in honour of Eli Manning.
Eli is, to some, a polarising figure in NFL circles but his impact on the Ole Miss football program is undeniable.
Eli Manning played four years in Oxford (2000-2003), becoming the Rebels’ all time leader in passing yards (10,119) and touchdowns (84). During his senior year, Manning led the unfancied Rebels to a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State, propelling Ole Miss onto the national stage. In that year he won the Maxwell award and finished third in the Heisman trophy voting. To this day Eli Manning remains the only player from the University of Mississippi to be selected as the number one overall pick in the draft. So yes, he is a legend in Oxford.
Ole Miss Athletic Director, Keith Carter said of the jersey retirement,
“We couldn’t be prouder or more excited to officially add Eli’s No. 10 to its rightful place among the retired jersey numbers in our football history. Like Chucky and Archie, Eli left an indelible impact on our program and the game of football as a whole.
His dedication, humility and kindness over the course of his career epitomizes what it means to be a Rebel, and we look forward to celebrating him as a player and a person”.
Of the honour bestowed upon him, Eli Manning had this to say about the retirement,
“I owe so much credit to the coaches and all the wonderful teammates that I had here during my time in Oxford that put in all the hard work right alongside of me. It’ll be special to see the number go up there next to my dad and Chucky Mullins.”
Eli Manning’s jersey will be retired in the Rebels game against Auburn, currently scheduled for 19 September.
Let’s stay in Mississippi.
Last week I wrote about the decisions of the SEC and NCAA to threaten removal of all Championship events from the state of Mississippi, if the state flag was not removed. You can read about this article here*.
Mississippi is the only state flag to still feature the flag of the Confederacy, and the debate over it’s continued use rages on.
This week on Twitter, the Mississippi State Governor, Tate Reeves elected to say this about the ongoing debate,
“Over the weekend there has been a proposal floating amongst some in the legislature to create a second Mississippi flag. Let’s call it the “Separate but Equal flag option. While well intentioned I’m sure, it does not meet the threshold”.
The whole quote actually makes it clear that the choice of a second flag should be made only by a vote by the people of Mississippi. However many, including Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill, took exception to these words by the State’s Governor.
Kylin Hill is regarded as a top running back prospect and would have likely have been picked in the 2020 NFL Draft. However he elected to stay a further year at Mississippi State to play for new Head Coach, Mike Leach.
So Kylin really did put it all on the line when he decided to make a stand and respond with this:
“Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore…. & I meant that… I’m tired”.
This was a remarkable stand for a young man to take. Easy for me to say but he could have taken the simple route and let the statement slide. By speaking out he put his future career at risk. But this generation is not willing to stay silent and he spoke out.
And bravo to him.
But he was not alone. It turns out he has support and lots of it.
On Thursday a group of more than fifty coaches and athletic directors from Mississippi universities, including State’s Mike Leach and Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin convened on the State Legislature to lobby the changing of the state’s flag. This was a powerful message to send, creating enormous publicity not just in the state, but nationwide.
Mike Leach said (via The Clarion-Ledger) of the decision to attend:
“The purpose of the state flag is to unify the state. Right now this flag doesn’t do that. To me, it’s really quite simple. Why do you have a State flag? To unify all the people in the State. If your flag doesn’t do that, change it. Does your flag bring in business or keep business out? If it doesn’t bring it in, change it. Does it draw athletes and people to the State or not? If it doesn’t, change it. Its as simple as that. On a very practical level, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened a long time ago.”
With the support of his school, head coach and a signifiant part of the state, Kylin Hill’s decision to stay in school for another year is, without too much hyperbole, looking like it may create history.
We Are A Team
In this moment in history, we can’t be silent.
On Thursday, Alabama football issued a video on it’s Twitter account.
The content was written by offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood. It is a powerful message and my words won’t do it justice.
But I will say this. The message is a strong statement from one of the premier schools in College Football and is welcome at this point. You can watch it in the link, below.
While the likelihood of college football in the fall changes by the day, the demand for football increases day by day.
Which is just as well, as Georgia announced this week that they have sold all 56,000 season tickets at the newly revamped Sanford Stadium. This number of season tickets is a record after the expanding of the stadium to 92,746.
UGA is optimistic about the possibility of having all fans in the stands come September. UGA President Jere Morehead told the media this week,
“Right now, our plan is to move forward and start the season on time and to have a full season. I can’t predict events that would change that plan but that’s the approach that the SEC is operating under”.
Morehead expanded further,
“Personally, I’m hoping that we don’t have to put any restrictions on at Sanford Stadium. But I have no idea what the public health experts are going to be telling us at that point. If they say that we have to have social distancing or you have to wear masks, then we’ll approach things as we’re advised to do”.
According to Dawgnation, UGA has drawn up three scenarios for the commencement of football, being
– No fans in attendance
– Limited attendance with mandatory social distancing throughout the stadium
– Full attendance
This week the UGA Athletic’s Board approved a budget of $149.4m for the school year, which is a reduction on the prior year of $4m.
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.