NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 11: Head coach Houston Nutt of the Ole Miss Rebels waits to take the field with his team before playing the Tulane Green Wave at the Louisiana Superdome on September 11 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
In November of 2009, despite finishing with a second straight losing season, our football program was feeling the positivity like we had not felt in many years. Only a few plays separated us that season from a bowl game, but despite our lack of an extra game that year, you couldn't help but feel that the program was, for lack of a better term, on the rise. And most of that was because of the new man in charge. After Dan Mullen navigated through a difficult first season, he capped it off with an explanation point, completely dominating the Egg Bowl game, en route to a 41-27 win that wasn't even that close, really. And few will forget another thing that began that season - besides the more consistent winning and increased expectations - Dan's refusal to address our rival, Ole Miss, by name. He simply referred to them as "The School Up North", or TSUN for short.
At the time, frankly, it was the greatest thing going on in the circles of Mississippi State fans. On the surface, it was a rallying point, a movement to which Dan led, taunting Ole Miss fans while driving them crazy, even though they didn't really care, allegedly. Some saw Mullen's tactics as childish, bullying and below the expected persona of a college football head man, but to State fans, it was a breath of fresh air. Because it was more than just a taunting nickname for Ole Miss, it was our feeling that maybe we could finally climb out of the hole that Jackie Sherill and Sylvester Croom seemed to have led us down into in the seasons leading up to Dan's arrival.
I write to you today though, fellow Mississippi State fans, not to reminisce on how exciting and promising Mullen's first 3 years have been, but to make a plea to you.
It's time. It's time to retire "The School Up North."
Let me preface the reasoning for my saying this by saying that I myself have enjoyed the fruits of using this phrase and throwing it in Rebel fan's faces probably more than most any other person out there donning the maroon and white. But here we sit, 3 years after the phrases' creation, and I just feel it's time to put it to rest.
Why? My reasoning has two parts.
Reason number one - It's been played out. Like I said before, at the beginning, I championed this nickname's usage probably (definitely) more than any of the rest of you guys and gals. But lately the phrase has just become tired out, gone flat like a coke that's been sitting out with the top off too long. Don't get me wrong, I haven't gone soft and/or flipped to being an Ole Miss fan or anything, I just simply think the use of TSUN was a phase - a phase we need to except that has come and gone. It seems as if the sting of the nicknames use has lessened lately as well, and frankly I feel like now it gives Ole Miss fans more of a reason to laugh at us than really be offended or irritated by it.
Reason number two - Using the phrase at this point borders on obsessiveness. Under Dan Mullen, this program has made notable strides in the past several seasons in terms of expectations, performance, and attainable goals. In 2009 and before we really knew the success we'd have in 2010, beating Ole Miss was probably one of the higher goals on our list. At the time it was a great stepping stone, a good performance measuring tool to determine if the program was going in the right direction or not. But now, 3 years later, I would hope our goals would move a bit higher - New Year's Day bowls, 10 win seasons, competing with the Auburn's, Arkansas', Alabama's and LSU's even, rather than just focusing on Ole Miss. And the continued use by our fanbase of the TSUN phrase, whether intentional or not, gives the indication they are still our only focus point, which I don't believe is true (for most of us, some of y'all are straight up still just focused on them).
In summary, I hope that this won't inflame the majority of our fanbase. And to preimtively combat those who will come here and say "I'LL CALL THEM TSUN AS LONG AS I DANG WELL WANT TO YOU LIBRAL SUN BEECH!", you're right, you are absolutely entitled to continue the use of that nickname for as long as you please. I certainly do not operate a dictatorship on the usage of the name. I'm merely suggesting that it's time to move on. The use of TSUN united us, gave us ammunition against the enemies we share a state with, and generally gave a swagger (my gosh I hate that word) to the majority of the fanbase that we had not possessed in quite a while. But with the years passing comes progression, and if we hope to continue to progress - as a program, a fanbase, and a family, I think we have to move on from the tools we used to get here, and focus on the new goals in front of us. Continuing to embrace the use of the TSUN phrase, to me, is continuing to embrace that "beating Ole Miss is good enough for me", and at this point, with this program's success, that simply should not be the case anymore. And besides, they hate it just as much if you call them Mississippi, and it sounds far less silly.*
*None of this means I won't continue to tweet, post, and joke in all forms of communication about Ole Miss. I will just now say Ole Miss instead of TSUN. See, it's not really that hard. Ole Miss. Ole Miss. Ole Miss(ed)