Sherrill Has Answer For Cowbell Controversy

Mississippi State's opponents haven't heard the last clang of a cowbell at Scott Field. Southeastern Conference university presidents voted last week to penalize the home team if fans use artificial noisemakers during games. Starting next football season, teams whose fans use noisemakers will be warned by officials first, penalized 5 yards on the second violation and 15 yards on every subsequent violation. The rule is aimed directly at Bulldogs fans and their beloved cowbells, which doesn't sit well with Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill. ``Don't just have a rule for Mississippi State,'' he said. Fans are already prohibited from bringing noisemakers into SEC stadiums. The rule, which is printed on game tickets, was put in place in the mid 1970s. Mississippi State does confiscate cowbells from fans as they enter Scott Field, but gate security doesn't thoroughly search each fan so many get through. ``The university is going to come to grips with this and do whatever we can do to abide by the rule,'' athletic department spokesman Mike Nemeth said on Tuesday. ``We don't want to put our teams at a disadvantage.'' Sherrill has vowed to keep the cowbells ringing. He said he wants the university to pipe-in the sound of cowbells through the stadium's sound system, using it the same relentless way Tennessee plays the song ``Rocky Top'' at Neyland Stadium. ``We will take care of the cowbell issue,'' Sherrill said. ``We will have cowbell sounds in the stadium that are louder than ever before.'' SEC rules permit teams to pipe-in music and sound effects during pregame, halftime, timeouts and after scoring plays.

The new SEC noisemaker rule is similar to the NCAA's crowd noise rule. A team can be penalized if crowd noise makes it impossible for the opponent to hear signals being called. It's a penalty that referees generally don't like to call. Bobby Gaston, the SEC's coordinator of officials, said he couldn't recall a time in the last 15 years where a team was penalized for crowd noise. Gaston hopes the SEC wants the new noisemaker rule to be used in extreme cases. ``It's something that is going to take some sound judgment in order to enforce,'' he said. ``Until we get a final interpretation out of our presidents, I'm reluctant to say too much of anything.'' University presidents voted 11-1 approval of the proposal at last week's spring meeting in Destin, Fla. Charles Lee, Mississippi State's interim president, cast the lone dissenting vote. Mississippi State supporters, of course, say archrival Mississippi is behind what they consider blatant Bulldog bashing. Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat hasn't hid his displeasure with the cowbells. Before and during last year's Ole Miss-Mississippi State game in Starkville, he voiced concerns to MSU athletic director Larry Templeton. ``Nobody should have a competitive advantage based on some sort of noise. It's difficult enough with just fan noise,'' said Khayat. ``The rule prohibits (cowbells) and I'm not a fan of overtly violating rules,'' he said.