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Thinking of 30 years of change at Ole Miss

By Jeremy Weldon

Editor’s Column

As much as anything, it was the silence in the pressbox that I most remember about the day Chucky Mullins crumpled to the ground in the north end zone of Vaught Hemingway Stadium, never to move his arms and legs again.

It was that silence I was thinking about this weekend, sitting two chairs down from the place I sat 30 years ago as sports editor of The Daily Mississippian on the day Ole Miss and Vanderbilt played that tragic game.

Langston Rogers, longtime Sports Information Director at Ole Miss, is now partially retired, but seems busier than ever in the press box on game days. He was there Saturday, of course, and he kindly sat with me for a while as we recalled Chucky and the day he hit Vandy receiver Brad Gaines to break up a touchdown pass.

Langston and his wife have moved to Panola County in their semi-retirement, and he wanted to talk more about her show dogs and their grandchildren than he did about Chucky. I don’t blame him, it still hurts.

Those were days before public internet and cell phones, and it was Langston that every sportswriter in Mississippi, and a few from Tennessee, was looking to for information in the minutes, then hours, after the hit.

Langston also recalled how quiet the press box was after the paralyzing hit. That’s unusual – the sportswriting fraternity isn’t known for its decorum. But that day everybody sat in stunned silence as we tried to process what was playing out before our very eyes.

It fell to Langston and his staff to slowly give us information as it became available over the next few days while the whole nation’s attention was focused on Oxford and Chucky.

Monday morning after the Saturday game the office was swamped with media requests from across the country, Langston recalled. His difficult job was balancing how much information to release for an anxious public with the privacy desires of the Mullins family.

We talked a few minutes and he was off again, busy hosting the group from the College Football Hall of Fame at the game to recognize the induction of Rebel great Patrick Willis. I noticed he also visited some with Brad Gaines and his family, who was sitting just below. Gaines has kept close ties with Ole Miss since that day, and never fails to attend the annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award breakfast each year.

Ole Miss was blessed to have Langston running SID for so many years and he did an admirable job by all accounts.

What isn’t admirable is the great hue and cry from the children at the University about the hiring of a fine gentleman, Dr. Glenn Boyce, as Chancellor. They are sorely grieved, they say, because the process was unjust.

They made signs and wrote editorials decrying the way the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning arrived at the decision to hire Boyce. They rolled their eyes and said ridiculous, childish things about matters they don’t understand.

It’s not the process they hate, it’s the new Chancellor. And it’s not because he was on the search committee. It’s because he’s not a liberal who will go along blindly with the left leaning wackos that have inexplicably been added to the faculty over the past few years.

Some of the liberal faculty reportedly gave extra credit to students who attended the official announcement ceremony with the specific intent of disrupting the news conference. Ole Miss wasn’t able to properly introduce the new Chancellor because of their protest.

One fellow had his picture taken and published in several news outlets being hauled away by the police. Wouldn’t you be pleased if this was your kid?  At a time when Mississippi State University seems to be doing everything the right way, Ole Miss just can’t seem to figure out why big donors are pulling their money and support.

Thirty years since the Vanderbilt game that ended Chucky’s career and later his life. Lots of changes in the world and at Ole Miss since that day. Chucky became a picker in our newspaper’s version of Pigskin Picks and I would go by the house the University built each week to let him make his picks, and he was always the same smiling Chucky every time.

Not much to smile about at Ole Miss right now with the mental midgets making such a fuss. Again, they are children, so what do we really expect? Good gracious. Porter Fortune, where are you when we need you?

I wonder if any of them will stop crying and wipe their nose long enough to read Chancellor Boyce’s bio and realize his leadership at Holmes Community College and emphasis on career and technology initiatives is exactly what Ole Miss and the region needs at this time?

Probably not. So we will have to endure more of their whining for a few days until something else comes along to distract them.

Sometimes, like now,  I miss the silence.