Fordice meant much to state

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Pat Fordice died last week it was a loss for all of Mississippi. I never really knew Mrs. Fordice or her former husband, the late Governor Kirk Fordice, but I admired them both for all they meant to Mississippi. I have never aspired to be a political writer, and I don’t intend to start now. Admittedly, I admire Ann Coulter’s columns and agree with her philosophy, but I also know that half the people in this country who read her writings violently disagree with her. Therefore, I know if I attempted to wax political I would lose more than half of my readers.

A couple of years ago, shortly before it was announced that Kirk Fordice had contracted terminal leukemia, my wife and I went to a movie in Madison. Just before the feature started the former Governor and Pat Fordice came in and sat right in front of us. They had been divorced for a couple of years, but sat and ate popcorn like any other movie-goers. We both had admired him as Governor and Mrs. Fordice for the class with which she handled the couple’s adversity. We gave no indication that we had recognized them, nor did any other people in the theater so far as we could tell. They were totally deserving of their privacy.

This is, after all, a sports column. I do not know if Kirk Fordice was ever involved in sports in high school or college, but I do know that he was an avid hunter, going after large and small game, both here and abroad. As driven and aggressive as Fordice was, there is no doubt in my mind that he could have been a successful athlete in whatever sport he might have chosen.

Email newsletter signup

By now, most sports fans know of the National Basketball League official who will be arrested by the FBI for betting on games which he officiated. and maybe shaving points in those games, to assure winning those bets. It is every sports official’s nightmare for this to happen, because the public will now assume that every time a call goes against their team an official is “on the take.” If every official in every important game lets his mind wander and thinks “will the FBI investigate me over this call?” or, “will the mafia knock on my door tonight?” you will see more and more non-calls.

In the 1980s, when my officiating career in the Southeastern Conference was winding down, each of our rules clinics included a segment given by a retired FBI agent. It was always a warning about gambling and the dangers of becoming trapped by gambling debt. None of the guys I officiated with was high rollers, but almost all of us bet small amounts on our golf games.

To my knowledge, none of them was ever visited by the FBI or the mafia.

I have finally received the 2007 edition of the Redding Study Guide to NCAA Football Rules, along with the 2007 NCAA Football Rules. The rule change sure to be seen first by fans will be evident before the game starts. This year, the kick off will be from the 30-yard line. Again, the Rules Committee has tried to create more run backs of kick offs. With today’s strength and weight training, kickers will soon again be able to put most kick offs in the end zone.

And, That’s Official.

Al Graning can be reached by e-mail at