For the first time since his return to coaching 10 years ago, Jackie Sherrill’s present will converge with his past.
Tonight’s Independence Bowl matches Sherrill and Mississippi State against Texas A&M; (7-4), a program that still bears his stamp more than a decade after his tumultuous seven-year tenure at College Station ended.
Since coming to Starkville in 1991, Sherrill has turned Mississippi State (7-4) from Southeastern Conference cellar dwellers to perennial contenders and regular bowl participants.
The Independence Bowl will mark the Bulldogs’ third consecutive postseason appearance, and sixth overall, under Sherrill. The 57-year-old became the school’s winningest coach this season. He is 66-48-2 at Mississippi State.
From 1982-88, Sherrill performed a similar transformation with the Aggies, taking a program that had lost its edge and bringing it to national prominence.
But the turnaround came to an ugly end. Texas A&M; was put on probation and Sherrill was run out of town with a reputation for running a dirty program.
Still, Sherrill is proud that his legacy remains evident at Texas A&M.;
“There’s part of you there,” he said.
Most significantly, R.C. Slocum, the coach who has kept Texas A&M; among the most successful teams in the nation, was Sherrill’s defensive coordinator.
Sherrill has said there may be some emotions stirred when he walks onto the field tonight, but mostly he has downplayed the meeting.
“He has not made it personal for us,” Mississippi State linebacker Mario Haggan said. “He shouldn’t have to say a whole lot to get us ready for Texas A&M.;”