Mississippi State will look for its first Southeastern Conference football title since 1941 with former Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill leading the way.
"I don't have any magic. Nobody has it," said Sherrill, who won three Southwest Conference championships before leaving with the Aggies on NCAA probation in 1988. "I just felt this was an opportunity. I'm not setting any timetables (for winning). It is going to take time and hard work."Sherrill, who spent two years in private business after leaving Texas A&M, replaces Rockey Felker, who resigned under pressure two weeks ago after a 5-6 season, the Bulldogs' fourth straight losing campaign.
"We wanted an individual that could prove he was a winner ... not only on the field, but also by placing a demand on our student athletes," athletic director Larry Templeton said. "Most importantly, we wanted a coach that could help Mississippi State win the Southeastern Conference championship."
Sherrill's teams at Texas A&M had a 52-28-1 record in seven seasons, won three consecutive Southwest Conference titles and played in the Cotton Bowl from 1985-87.
Sherrill, 47, had a 105-45-3 record in 13 seasons as a coach at Texas A&M, Pittsburgh and Washington State.
Felker was 21-34 in five seasons at Mississippi State. During his tenure, he had just one winning season - 1986, when the Bulldogs finished 6-5 after starting 6-1 and reaching 13th in The Associated Press poll.
The NCAA said Sherrill was never implicated in any wrongdoing. But he resigned in December 1988, following an internal investigation by the school - three months after the Aggies were placed on probation for two years for recruiting violations.
"I made the decision to leave, contrary to what other people believe," Sherrill said. "I had a feeling or pulse of the other place (private business). I was at A&M for eight years and helped build a program that was highly successful. I made the right decision."
The NCAA eventually cleared Texas A&M of allegations that former player George Smith received "hush" money, saying it could not distinguish fact from fiction. Smith had said Sherrill, then coach and athletic director, paid him for his silence about NCAA rules violations and that a university official later offered $30,000 to recant his charges.
Templeton contacted Sherrill, who had not applied for the position. Sherrill said, however, that he had wanted to get back in coaching.
"This was the right place at the right time for me. I was looking for the right situation to get back," Sherrill said. "(The late University of Alabama) Coach (Paul) Bryant used to say if you don't get up in the morning and throw up because you miss it (coaching) so bad, you don't know what it is."
Sherrill, who said he will begin recruiting immediately, met with returning Bulldog players Sunday night and also began interviewing current Bulldog assistant coaches.
"I will interview each one of them. I also know coaches around the country who have been on my past staffs," Sherrill said. "Some of the coaches here I know personally and they are very good coaches. Whether they want to stay is their prerogative."