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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

James: Zac Selmon is the future, but there is still work to be done

Kevin Synder | MSU Athletics

It has been more than a year since Zac Selmon took command as Mississippi State University’s athletic director, and there is still some work to be done.

With this in mind, he has done a good job at keeping the ship afloat in Starkville following John Cohen’s exit to Auburn back in 2022 and Selmon’s subsequent hire in January of 2023.

Selmon’s first test came when Mississippi State was 4-6 in the 2023 football season and fans were calling for a change.

In his first major move, Selmon decided to dismiss Zach Arnett in November of 2023 to get a head start on hiring a new head coach, as Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher just one day prior. While this looked at the time as if we were copying what Texas A&M did as we had just played them two days before, Selmon saw this as crucial to get a head start on what turned out to be a massive coaching carousel this past offseason. To make the hire, Selmon decided to use connections from his time at the University of Oklahoma and nabbed highly touted Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby as the Bulldogs’ 36th head coach.

While Lebby had no head coaching experience when he was hired on, his resume alone was enough to bring him on board. He has worked under fellow SEC coaching minds such as Josh Heupel and Lane Kiffin and is bringing in a new, fast tempo offense that ranked in the top 10 nationally at both Baylor and Oklahoma. Lebby has also been hot on the recruiting trail and has earned praise and approval from players and fans alike for his success.

While only time will tell how the Jeff Lebby era in Starkville will end up, Zac Selmon decided to take a risk early in his athletic director career and hire a rising offensive mind. There are not a lot of predictions over how his tenure will all turn out, but it is at least nice to see the fanbase excited about football this fall.

Outside of Selmon’s ambitious hiring, he has also been pushing hard for a very new concept in the world of college athletics: NIL.

Thanks to new laws and NCAA guidelines, student athletes can profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL). This has ushered in a new era in college sports and has brought both praise and criticism.

NIL adds a new, difficult twist to recruiting, and the Bulldogs have already faced trouble in trying to recruit while sandwiched in between SEC powerhouses such as Alabama and LSU and the self-proclaimed “portal king” Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss.

Selmon seems to realize this and has played a crucial part in the promotion of the Bulldog Initiative, the university’s NIL collective.

Selmon’s ability to see and understand what is happening in the landscape of college athletics and find ways to address these things is what MSU has been missing for a while.

The responsibilities brought in by the new world of NIL should not fall completely on Selmon’s shoulders, though. Donors and boosters also have a responsibility to help Mississippi State’s athletic program succeed and produce results each year.

This is something that Selmon and his team should address the older alumni who help donate and support the university need to step up if they do not want to get left in the dust.

With their help, we can see more success like the first SEC Championship title in Mississippi State women’s golf history.

The university wants to win. The fans want to win. The city of Starkville wants to win, but Selmon cannot do it alone.

The athletic department needs to step up their game in catering to their older, richer donor base that can help bring in the success that everyone wants to see by making them more familiar with the new, NIL world college sports has become along with showing them the potential the athletic program can reach. That is how schools like Alabama and Georgia continue to rake in top 10 recruiting classes every year.

While I understand that from a financial aspect, the university is somewhat limited in what they could do from a booster standpoint compared to other schools, but that does not mean they should not at least try.

If Selmon can see the changes that are happening around him, he can see that his donors need to step up if they want to be one of the big dogs in an already highly competitive conference such as the SEC, which will only get more competitive with the entrances of Oklahoma and Texas just around the corner.

Selmon is young and vocal leader in Starkville, which is what our athletic department needs. If he can get the fans and donors to continue to buy into his vision, the more we can see Mississippi State and their athletic department grow into something even bigger.

About the Contributor
Colin James
Colin James, Staff Writer
Colin James is a senior communication major. Colin is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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