Dan Mullen has a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell.
The Mississippi State coach went on the offensive at SEC media day Wednesday to defend the Bulldogs tradition. In 2010, the SEC limited the use of cowbells to before games, at halftime, during timeouts and after scores. But using the cowbells during live action, part of Mississippi State's tradition, would result in a financial penalty.
The first strike was worth $5,000, the second $25,000 and the third $50,000. SEC commissioner Mike Slive told Mississippi State that it violated the conference's noisemakers policy.
But Mullen is still fighting to get the entire tradition restored even going as far as having an "insert-foot-in-mouth" moment when comparing the cowbell to the poisoning of Auburn's beloved Toomer's Corner trees.
Montgomery Advertiser reporter Jay Tate quoted Mullen in a tweet Wednesday:
Eh, that might be a stretch. Last year, Mississippi State fans were allowed to use cowbells, the Toomer's Corner trees as we know them might cease to exist. And really, if someone took away a Mississippi State fan's cowbell, he could just go buy another. Once those 100-year-old trees die, well, it's not like you can plant another 100-year-old tree in its place.
Oddly, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin made a similar comparison back in an email to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs:
I told him — and I believe this — no school should have their tradition taken away from them. I believe you can say that about the folks at Toomer's Corner and I think you can say that about the cowbells. That's a great tradition and it would be a real shame if it was taken away from this university.
While Mullen's comments might have been slightly offbase, he did clarify why - in his mind - the cowbell's meant so much to his program. In November, when defensive end Nick Bell suddenly passed away, Mullen recalled being at the funeral and watching Bell's mother standing over the casket as it was being lowered into the ground. The she started clanging a cowbell for her son as a final goodbye.
It was then that he realized cowbells were no longer a silly scheme to rattle opponents.
"It's not an amusing thing anymore," Mullen said at the SEC spring meetings Wednesday. "It is a deep-rooted symbol and tradition of the people of the state of Mississippi and Mississippi State University."
It was that crushing realization of how important this tradition was to everyone associated with the university that made Mullen understand that this was a practice he had to fight for.
During a vote Wednesday, SEC athletic directors sided with their coaches and decided to keep the cowbell tradition alive. The proposal now has to be approved by the leagues presidents before the Bulldogs can officially keep the tradition -- or at least the modified version of it -- for another year.