Following a particularly chippy Egg Bowl last Thursday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has called upon Ross Bjork and Mississippi State’s director of athletics John Cohen to attempt to create “a healthier environment” in future Egg Bowls.
Last week’s 35-3 victory by Mississippi State over the Rebels culminated in a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in four ejections. This is just the latest in a rivalry that has consistently turned out hostility and aggression from both sides.
Sankey said he will “require” the two athletics directors to meet with him at the SEC office in Birmingham, although a date is not yet set for the meeting.
“These incidents have become far too common in this series,” Sankey said. “I will require both athletics directors to meet with me at the SEC Office in the off-season to review past issues and develop a plan for the purpose of creating a healthier environment for this annual game.”
Sankey, whose daughter is a current Mississippi State student, has faced criticism for his intervention as Rebel fans are concerned about his backseat role during the NCAA investigations of Ole Miss in which Mississippi State players served as witnesses. Many believe that his role in the investigations only served to intensify the toxic nature of the rivalry.
On Wednesday, Ross Bjork released a letter to the Ole Miss community asking Rebel fans to band together behind Matt Luke and rejoice in an anticipated period of stability that has long been absent from the program. The letter is seemingly a way to put a positive spin on a negative season that has now concluded in further turmoil involving Ole Miss.
“Our 2018 football team has been through more adversity than most teams will experience in a decade, so our goal this year was to give them as much positivity and stability as possible,” Bjork said. “And despite the challenges we have faced, these student-athletes banded together under Coach Luke’s leadership and gave us everything they had each and every week, even when others said they had nothing to play for.
This comes on the heels of Matt Luke’s end-of-season press conference, where he urged fans to stick with him and the staff moving forward after a season in which the team moved backwards from the previous year, despite expectations.
“When you go through tough times it’s important for me to stand up here and be positive and to keep our team together, but I want our fans to understand and know what’s going to happen here as long as we stick together and keep working,” Luke said.
It is yet to be seen what actions will actually arise from the meetings between Sankey, Bjork and Cohen, but Ole Miss fans will likely be apprehensive about being dealt any sort of punishment related to the incident. Fans from both sides will most likely reject any action that could be seen as taking away from the contention of the rivalry.