Mississippi State and Ole Miss will do battle tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. with the Governor's Cup on the line. While most fans on both sides of the rivalry get fired up whenever the Bulldogs and Rebels meet on any field of competition, the Governor's Cup just cannot light the fire under fans like a basketball matchup or The Battle for the Golden Egg.
The fact that this game, a glorified exhibition, does not count in the SEC standings nor really matter in the overall standings takes away from its fun. Fans will not see Bobby Wahl facing off against Kendall Graveman tonight. Instead, they will see the fourth best starter (at best) for both squads in this matchup.
However, the Governor's Cup could be so much more, and it would take little effort to make it better. Instead of just having Mississippi State and Ole Miss do battle for the Governor's Cup, open it up to all of the Division-1 public Institutes of Higher Learning in Mississippi.
The Governor's Cup should be an early season, round robin based tournament at Trustmark Park featuring Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, and Alcorn State. Trot Rick Cleveland out at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, have a press conference each year and have the groups drawn out of a hat. If six teams is not your thing, add Delta State and rotate the eighth team through some of the other schools in the state.
When round robin play reaches its completion, have the winner of the Ray Mabus Pool square off against the runner up of the Haley Barbour Pool (or whatever you want to name them) and have the winner of the Haley Barbour Pool square off against the runner up of the Ray Mabus Pool in a semifinal matchup. The winners would then play for the Governor's Cup. The third place teams could also matchup against each other.
This would give each team at least three games and a possibility of four. The event could start on Thursday and run through a championship game on Sunday. With it being an early season tournament, it would add more prestige to the event. With it being early, better pitchers and players would be starting and playing in the game. With it being early, more fans would care about the Magnolia Cup.
For those that would whine that the tournament would hurt RPI rankings, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss all play SWAC schools and usually each other during the season. All this does is condense those games into one tournament, a tournament that crowns a true Magnolia Cup Champion.