Polk comes ‘home’ to Mississippi State

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 28, 2001

Homecoming is ongoing at Mississippi State for Ron Polk and thousands of Bulldog followers throughout Mississippi and elsewhere. &uot;It just doesn’t get any better than this,&uot; one Bulldog fan remarked to me last week. Fans are indeed happy.

Only good things happen where Polk coaches. When he was State’s baseball skipper most of 22 years before going to Georgia two seasons, he led the MSU Bulldogs to four Southeastern Conference titles and five College World Series appearances. No wonder State wanted him back.

Actually Polk’s 22-year tenure included a stint in MSU administration of two to three years. He had as his baseball assistant now-head coach Pat McMahon, who has recently opted for the top job at Florida following four years at State.

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Big money played a role in Polk’s decision to come back to Starkville, I’m sure, although that’s always played down. But Ron Polk is a hot commodity; many schools would like to have him. Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley, you have to figure, tried to keep him.

&uot;But the call home was tough,&uot; Ron Polk was quoted as saying about the Mississippi State offer. Things had to be good all over because Polk this season led Georgia to a 47-22 record, the SEC championship and a berth in the College World Series. Again, no wonder State wanted him back.

MSU Athletic Director Larry Templeton knew his longtime friend Polk was the coach he wanted, and that explains a reportedly fabulous package put together to lure him back home. But Georgia strung together a great one to try to keep him as well. I know coach Polk had to be impressed – and appreciative.

The &uot;new&uot; Bulldog baseball coach was on State’s campus from 1976-97, so he’s familiar with all the crooks and turns on the pretty, sprawling campus.

It took all this familiarity, probably a better salary, etc., package than Georgia’s, and the fact that Starkville and State’s simply home to convince him to head his moving van back to the Starkville-Columbus area.

All things looked favorable for coach Polk’s return to his alma-mater, not the least of which was the everlasting name &uot;Polk&uot; already on MSU’s baseball stadium. Not to mention the fact, too, that he has a home already in Starkville. &uot;Statesmen&uot; know a good man when they see one.

OLD Natchez High’s 1953 football team was a powerhouse. The Rebels lost but one game, 20-14 to Greenville in one of the best games ever played at old Rebel Stadium.

Before Greenville, Natchez had hopped all over favored Jackson Central for a 32-20 surprise victory, blasted Columbia and McComb 40-0 and 53-0 respectively, beaten Clarksdale 33-13, Gulfport 60-6, Hattiesburg 19-0 and Laurel 46-7. Tony Byrne and Company were running wild. Tony had 23 touchdowns to that point.

Greenville stopped the Rebels 20-14 here in Natchez, holding Tony to one TD, a 20-yard run with a recovered fumble. But the Rebels slashed Brookhaven 41-0 after that when Byrne scored touchdowns on 11, 23, 27 and 72-yard runs.

During that regular season, Byrne set a new Big Eight Conference record with 32 touchdowns and 192 points. He gained 1,802 yards on the season, 781 on TD runs alone, or 24.4 yards per TD…Brings back old memories, huh?