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Cowbells and Empty Threats

The SEC made a Mississippi State cowbell compromise this summer, making the artificial noisemakers legal in Starkville as long as the fans don't ring them while the game is going on. Fair enough. The school is doing its part. The fans, however, are not.

You could see it clearly in the Bulldogs' first SEC game of the year. For the first half and most of the third quarter, the fans only rang their cowbells when they were supposed to. It was a close game though, and State had an opportunity to beat Auburn. So late in the third quarter, the fans quit following instructions and rang their bells with abandon.

Mike Slive has noticed that MSU fans haven't been Ringing Responsibly and issued this warning about what could happen when the conference members review the cowbell policy next year:

"The focus would be on convincing the conference membership to maintain the legislation to permit cowbells in the stadium in the future because, if it's not continued, then the prohibition that had been in place for all those years will be back in place and I'm assuming that's not what fans want," Slive said.

Right. The SEC banned cowbells in 1974, officially making them contraband at Scott Field. The reason is simple: the other member schools hate the things. Mississippi State fans, as you know, managed to ring them anyway for 36 years. This summer, the topic somehow made the agenda of the conference summer meetings. Everyone hatched this compromise deal, which is now in jeopardy of being erased.

Unless the revocation of the policy includes stepped up enforcement, it's an empty threat. State fans rang them without penalty for nearly four decades after the first ban went into effect. Killing the compromise without vigilant enforcement only puts things back where they were.

That's why I don't really see this as a big issue. It's in the SEC's best interest simply leave things the way they are. I have a hard time believing that the cowbells will ever go away as long as the fans want to bring them. At least with the compromise, the SEC gets some money from fines to redecorate the league offices or something.