Legendary coach Jack Davis dies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year! I hope and pray that 2008 will be a safe and secure year for all of my readers.

I hate to start this year with some bad news, but I have learned of the death of Jack Davis.

Coach Jack Davis was among the top two or three high school football coaches to pass through the Miss-Lou area.

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He coached at Natchez High School in the late 1950s and early 1960s and led the (then) Rebels to a South Big Eight Conference championship, before losing a close game to the always strong Greenville Hornets, coached by Carl Maddox.

Many of Coach Davis’ players went on to college football careers, most notably Perry Lee Dunn and Allen Brown, both of whom played in the NFL.

I received news of Coach Davis’ death through Leroy Mullins, head trainer of the Ole Miss Rebel football team.

Leroy has been focused on the trainer vocation since his days at Natchez High School and, after his retirement in 2004, was followed as head trainer at Ole Miss by his son, Tim.

Because I had attended the school I could never officiate Ole Miss varsity football games. I did work a number of their scrimmages and always enjoyed seeing the senior Mullins with our common Natchez connection.

Ole Miss and Southern have to be proud of coach Croom’s Mississippi State Bulldogs.

It is impossible to call State’s Liberty Bowl victory pretty, but as Coach Croom says, there are no style points in football.

The Liberty Bowl game was officiated by a crew from the Sun Belt Conference.

That conference includes seven football playing schools: Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Middle Tennessee and Troy.

Conference champion Florida Atlantic was the only Sun Belt representative in a bowl this year, and they defeated Memphis 44 – 27 in the New Orleans Bowl (which automatically takes the Sun Belt champion each year.)

Following the 2006 season, champion Troy and Middle Tennessee State both participated in bowls.

That fact led to the Sun Belt officiating crew working a bowl this year.

Based on the number of teams a conference has playing in bowls, the following year an officiating crew for every two conference teams playing in bowls this year will be assigned bowl games.

The assigning is very difficult, especially this year. Sixty-four teams are playing in bowls, and officials cannot work in a bowl in which a team from their conference is playing.

The Sun Belt Conference officiating crew finally settled down and did a fairly good job in the Liberty Bowl.

Early on, they tried to botch a call against Mississippi State.

State’s quarterback Wesley Carroll attempted to pass, and as his arm moved forward, it was hit by a defender.

An official tried to call it a fumble, but was overruled by replay.

Actually, it appeared to me that the ball hit an offensive lineman before hitting the ground, which should have resulted in ‘illegal touching’ against State.

The announcing crew kept trying to say he was ‘withdrawing’ the pass, but there is no such term in the NCAA rule book.

Another shaky call was later when a flag was thrown for defensive pass interference against State, when the pass was actually thrown several yards out of bounds, making it ‘uncatchable.’

Fortunately, neither of those calls impacted the final score. For that the officiating crew can be downright thankful.

And, That’s Official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached by e-mail at AlanWard39157@aol.com.