BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - MSU Bulldogs head football coach Joe Moorhead, women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer and athletic director John Cohen were on hand and Mississippi State fans showed their support by packing the banquet room on Tuesday night at the Golden Nugget Casino.
The Mississippi State football teams returns a talented group of players highlighted by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who is almost completely healed after dislocating his ankle in the Bulldogs loss to arch-rival Ole Miss in the EGG Bowl game.
Preseason predictions have ranked Mississippi State as legitimate contenders in the SEC West, along with perennial National Championship contender Alabama and Auburn.
New head coach Joe Moorhead, who was Penn State's offensive coordinator before accepting the job in Starkville, admits he has inherited a talented football team.
"We're not the '85 (Chicago) Bears but we do have a talented roster, "said Moorhead. So we're going to have to do a great job in our out-of-conference schedule and certainly the SEC is very challenging with a razor thin margin of error on a weekly basis. And that's the challenge. We've had one winning record in the SEC in the past 15 years."
Coach Moorhead welcomes the competition with the likes of Alabama and Auburn. When he was the Penn State offensive coordinator, the Nittany Lions played the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State, but knows winning games in the tough SEC is what motivated him in accepting the challenge in Starkville.
"Part of the attraction of this job was to compete against the best and I know that's something our team is looking forward to, "said Moorhead.
Bulldogs women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer has built one of the top programs in college basketball. He guided MSU to the NCAA Championship game the last two seasons, but couldn't pull out victories.
Schaefer says he knows what it feels like to compete in the title game. "I've been in that game four times." Schaefer was an assistant coach with Texas A&M when the Lady Aggies played in two NCAA Championship games.
"That's a game I want to be in every year, "said Schaefer. "So it's not about getting to the NCAA Tournament anymore for us. We want to play in that last game every year and we want to play for championships. I said six years ago and I'm saying it today, that's our goal. That's what we're trying to do every year and its been fun doing it."
I have been covering college sports for 44 years and I have to give credit to coach Schaefer for building Mississippi State into a women's basketball power. It reminds me of former LSU legendary head baseball coach Skip Bertman. He took a program that wasn't going anywhere and constructed the Tigers into a national contender. Before he retired Bertman led LSU to five NCAA championships.
I believe that's exactly what Schaefer is doing at Mississippi State. He's gotten close twice and in that not too distant future, Schaefer will be cutting down the net.