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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Who will be the next leader for the Rebels?

COLUMN: On Friday I was afforded the luxury of watching the emotional retirement press conference of my childhood idol Mike Modano, hanging up his hockey skates after 22 record-setting seasons in the NHL (21 of which were with the Stars franchise).

During Modano’s introduction, long-time Dallas Stars play-by-play commentator Ralph Strangis said something that stood out to me.

He said: “The franchise had historically had its troubles and its share of bad luck. Following a Stanley Cup finals loss to the New York Islanders in 1981 the North Stars started to slide and even in the “State of Hockey” the fan base grew restless. But poor performance brings opportunity and in 1988 it brought the first overall draft pick. It was not a no-brainer, but then-Stars (general manager) Lou Nanne made the choice to draft not only whom he thought was the best player, but who would be the most dynamic talent to pump life into the franchise and reinvigorate the apathetic fan base. Mike Modano was drafted to save a franchise. As it turns out, he built one. And put Texas center stage on the world hockey map.”

Having lived in Dallas when the Stars relocated from Minnesota in 1993, the North Stars’ history was not news to me.

But, to be honest, I’m not sure I ever thought about Modano’s (and the Stars’) situation quite like that.

“Poor performance brings opportunity.”

Like the North Stars, Ole Miss has recently been to a similar mountain top in the program’s history— back-to-back AT&T Cotton Bowl appearances.

And like Minnesota, who finished the 1987-88 season having won just 19 of 80 games, the Rebels have gone through a rough patch recently.

Unfortunately for the Rebels, losing in college football isn’t rewarded with the No. 1 overall draft pick (maybe someday?).

But, as Strangis eloquently put it, losing can bring about change. And promise. And a new — better! — hope.

After years of losing in Starkville, the Bulldog faithful have coach Dan “The Man” Mullen, who has energized the maroon-and-white fan base once again.

Things have never looked better. And, to think, in 2008 the Bulldogs won just four games with losses coming to Louisiana Tech in the season opener and a 45-0 drilling at the hands of Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.

Now, the question stands: Does Ole Miss have its Mullen? Its Modano? That player or coach who can unite a fan base that is now — for multiple reasons — fractured.

Like hockey, football is a team sport and it takes more than one player or coach to turn things around. But it also starts with one.

For the Stars franchise The One was Modano.

Who will it be for the Rebels? (September 26, 2011, Page 2B)

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