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Defensive end Titus Brown has played for a Mississippi State team that has only nine wins to show for the past three seasons.
AP photo
Defensive end Titus Brown has played for a Mississippi State team that has only nine wins to show for the past three seasons.

After 3 seasons on job, MSU’s Croom still building

By Ashley Hargrove
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

When Sylvester Croom took on the task of helping rebuild the Mississippi State football program in 2004, he knew that it would take at least three seasons before his team could compete with the better teams.

And even though last year’s squad made improvements that Croom wanted, it didn’t translate into wins, something the coach said needs more time.

As all 12 Southeastern Conference football programs prepare to begin preseason practice within a week, Croom’s Bulldogs face looming questions about how long it will take for the former Alabama All-America player and assistant coach to produce a winning team in Starkville.

“Building anything that has a chance to succeed, whether it’s your family, your business, anything, it takes time,” Croom said. “Quite often in our society today, patience is not a virtue any more.

“We want it to happen right now. I’m very fortunate to be at Mississippi State because the people who hired me understood that this was the way that I was going to do it. It’s not been easy for me because I want to win right now, too.”

Mississippi State had won only eight games in three seasons before Croom was hired, but in his three seasons, the Bulldogs have improved only to 9-25, including 3-9 last season. That included a win over Alabama, but MSU lost to rival Ole Miss.

However, Croom has dealt with NCAA sanctions, which were delivered during his first season in 2004 and included probation and reductions in scholarships and official visits by recruits.

Even so, there’s pressure to start producing wins.

When asked if he felt any pressure going into this season, Croom replied, “Yeah, I do. The same pressure I felt when I was in the ninth grade when Tuscaloosa Junior High played Eastwood Junior High.”

Croom said he’s not worried about getting fired if MSU doesn’t win.

“I know our plan is on track,” Croom said. “But at anytime during my tenure or as coaches, we always know that (firing) is a possibility.

“But if that should ever come about, I’m quite thankful to have had the opportunity to do it my way. So regardless of the outcome, I’m far more fortunate than a lot of guys in this business.”

The Bulldogs face a tough task their first game of the season, opening at home on ESPN against LSU, the favorite to win the league.

Defensive end Titus Brown said he feels confident about the game.

“We’ve got a lot of guys returning and we have a lot of strength on the offensive line,” Brown said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are good leaders on defense and offense. I think we can go out there and make Mississippi State known for something with the opening game.”

According to Croom, though, no matter how his team does in the season opener, he’s more concerned about how his team is playing in November.

“I’m more worried about how you finish,” Croom said. “Regardless of the outcome against LSU, we’re still going to be a good football team before the year’s over.”

Croom said he’s grateful that his players have stuck by his philosophy.

“I’m extremely proud of the players who have come to our program because a lot of them, rather than choosing to go somewhere and riding on the coattail of someone else’s success, they chose to be a part of building something,” Croom said. “They’re the ones that’s building it, and builders are special people.”

Croom era highlights

  • 2004:Beat SEC power Florida 38-31 and followed up with a 22-7 win over Kentucky. Finished 3-8.

  • 2005:Managed a season-ending 35-14 win over Ole Miss. Finished 3-8.

  • 2006: Beat three teams from Sylvester’s home state of Alabama:UAB, Jacksonville State and Alabama. Finished 3-9.

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