Leaving Mississippi State a surprise, but not a surprise
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The end for Jackie Sherrill at Mississippi State came sooner than he planned.
"I've always had a date and a time to retire without saying it publicly," the Bulldogs outgoing coach said. "I've always in the back of my mind had a date, but those sometimes change."
Sherrill spoke publicly for the first time about his announcement Friday that he will retire after this season.
Sherrill spoke and answered questions from reporters for about 30 minutes. Several times he paused to hold back tears as he recounted his 13 years at Mississippi State. He even told a couple of jokes.
After it was over, several dozen fans and supporters of the program who attended the news conference gave Sherrill an ovation as he walked off.
Sherrill said the decision to retire was entirely his own and it had nothing to do with the NCAA investigation of his program.
"They can't do anything to me that they haven't done before," Sherrill said about the NCAA.
Sherrill told athletic director Larry Templeton and MSU president Charles Lee early last week that we would step down.
"To say that Jackie and I haven't been talking about where we are and where we're going is not correct, but he caught me by surprise last Monday when he walked in and said, 'Now's the time'," Templeton said.
Sherrill told his players at a meeting on Friday in Starkville, before they left for Auburn.
The players said Sherrill caught them off guard with his decision.
"It's a judgment he had to make, and I'm sure it's best for him and best for the team," Bulldogs quarterback Kevin Fant said. "I'm standing behind him. Whatever he thinks is best."
Mississippi State lost to Auburn 45-13 and plays at Kentucky on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have been one of the worst teams in the Southeastern Conference over the last three years, going 8-22 overall and 3-16 in the SEC.
The slide began the second game of the 2001 season at South Carolina, Sherrill said.
The Bulldogs came into that game ranked 17th in the country, but lost to the Gamecocks 16-14. The Bulldogs finished 3-9 that season, the most disappointing during Sherrill's tenure.
"When we played South Carolina, that balloon was popped. We just couldn't seal it up," he said.
Sherrill is under contract through the 2005 season. Templeton said Sherrill would not walk away empty handed, but added that no financial terms had been discussed.
"We're going to do right by Jackie Sherrill. He knows that," Templeton said.
Sherrill is 75-70-2 at Mississippi State, giving him more wins and losses than any coach in school history.
He turns 60 on Nov. 28, the day after Mississippi State finishes the season at home against archrival Mississippi.
He would not speculate on what he might do in the future, but insisted that his coaching days are done.
He said he planned to remain in Starkville and attend Mississippi State games.
"I'll have to figure out and find a way to sneak a cowbell in," he said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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