Musgrove's losing season
Dec. 5, 2001
Just when Gov. Ronnie Musgrove begins to gain some gubernatorial traction on real problems like economic development, the state budget and redistricting, his inner Gomer assaults him yearning to be politically clueless, slow-witted and free. Shazam!
As a National Collegiate Athletic Association football recruiting violation, this latest foible seems a tempest-in-a-teapot. Probation? Are you kidding?
With University of Mississippi officials dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's" in the recruiting process, it's unlikely Ole Miss is guilty of anything regarding the recruiting of a Brandon High running back other than a relatively minor "lack of institutional control" NCAA code for a university not keeping its fans in strict compliance with the rules.
Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Giggle, giggle.
Such violations are part of the history of all of Mississippi's "Big Three" universities and they've all logged the probations to show for those violations.
Violations of that rule usually involve a wealthy businessman who lets his zeal to help bring his alma mater a championship get in the way of his common sense by slipping a kid a car, some cash, or a trip to a strip joint not a governor who just doesn't see it or get it.
Guv's dual headaches
For Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, there are two problems regarding his decision to take Mississippi's top high school football prospect to Oxford for the Nov. 17 Ole Miss game against Georgia.
First, there's the potential damage he's done to his own alma mater by involving Ole Miss in a possible boneheaded NCAA football recruiting violation.
Second, there's the undeniable political damage Musgrove suffers with diehard Mississippi State University and University of Southern Mississippi fans who could care less if the governor takes his son and one of his friends to a college football game, but who don't feel compelled to subsidize a recruiting visit by the state's top prospect with the governor and his paid entourage in tow.
And while the Norwood incident isn't exactly the Mississippi political story of the year, it is likely the cherry on the sundae of the worst political year of Musgrove's life. Think about it.
Musgrove's losing season
Musgrove gets divorced and is criticized for "leaving" his children. He arranges a football outing for them at the Oxford and gets slammed for that, too.
Musgrove hires a slew of north Mississippians to staff his administration and is criticized for it. Through resignations and firings, many of those same north Mississippians depart the administration and Musgrove gets heat for that, as well.
Musgrove, who comes to power with more real legislative experience than any governor since William Winter, squanders that experience in petty feuds with the Legislature over who should get the blame or credit for the problems plaguing state government. At this juncture, Musgrove would have serious trouble getting a resolution honoring motherhood passed without a protracted floor fight.
As in the case of the official "unofficial" business endorsement letter he gave two former State Tax Commission employees entering the private sector, as in the "Air Musgrove" incident in 1999, as in the J.C. Burns debacle, as in the loading of the Workers Compensation Commission with lawyers, as with the appointment of Leflore County Court Judge Solomon Osborne, Musgrove always claims his actions were fueled by good intentions that stuff the old saying tells us is used to pave the road to Hell.
But at some point, Musgrove's poor judgment has to begin to outshine his good intentions. He has to realize that he's governor 24/7. The mansion is a glass house and everyone's looking in.
The Norwood trip wasn't an evil recruiting conspiracy. It was just stupid.
Sid Salter is Perspective Editor/Columnist at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. Call him at (601) 961-7084, write P.O. Box 40, Jackson, MS 39206, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.