Coach Jackie Sherrill e-mailed this to the Mississippi State family this afternoon:
Dear Fellow Bulldogs:
It is with mixed emotion that I write this letter, but I want you to know my decision before you read it or hear it in the media.
I have decided to retire from coaching football and have given Dr. Lee and Larry my letter of resignation effective at the end of this football season. I feel this advance notice gives the administration ample time to hire a new head football coach and make sure the football program continues to get back to where everyone wants it to be and it deserves to be.
This decision has not come easily for me because of my great feeling for the players and their families, the coaches and their families, and the entire MSU family. Over the years, Peggy and I have developed personal relationships with many of you and will always value those friendships.
Thirteen years ago, I took the job as head football coach and brought my family to Starkville, where we experienced firsthand what it is to be a Bulldog. That was thirteen years ago, and now our daughter holds both a B.S. and a master's degree, our son-in-law received a B.S., and Peggy earned a bachelor's degree, all from Mississippi State University. Our 21-month-old grandson, Daniel, recognizes the MSU emblem and yells 'PopPop' (that's me, by the way) at the sight of anything maroon and white. Those are things which will go with me and my family the rest of our lives.
When I took this job, I said that we deserve to win and we would win. We have experienced some of the greatest moments ever at Scott Field. We have been to the Liberty Bowl, the Peach Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, and the Independence Bowl, and, most importantly, had the thrill of participating in the SEC Championship game. We have been treated with tremendous respect and goodwill and for that, I thank you. You have been our friend through the ups and downs, and there are no words to adequately express my appreciation.
Two years ago, we started a downhill slide and I have deep regret about that. However, I have made sure we now have the players in place to regain the respect and bring the excitement back to Scott Field. We are on the road back and this young team will win a lot of football games in the upcoming years.
We need to do our part to never go backward. The best way to make sure that happens is to be very positive and loyal to this university and the people who are in place to run it. I may have rambled a bit, but you can rest assured that I have not thrown in the towel and I will fight to my last breath. We have two more home games against Alabama and Mississippi, and I expect the stadium to be packed to full capacity. I want everyone to rock the stands with noise and excitement and electricity for our football team.
Thank you for allowing me to have the honor of serving as your head football coach for 13 years, and for all the support and loyalty you have shown me and my family.
I will forever be a Bulldog.
Statement from Mr. Larry Templeton, Mississippi State University Director of Athletics:
Coach Jackie Sherrill announced this afternoon his intention to retire at the end of the 2003 football season. Jackie came to me during the first of the week and thought the time was right for him to share his future plans in order that the university might start the process of selecting a new football coach prior to the end of the season.
He was adamant that the first group that he wanted to share his plans with were the players. He did that this afternoon.
On behalf of the entire Mississippi State family, I express our sincere appreciation to him for the outstanding leadership and coaching job he has provided our football program during the past 13 years.
Jackie has accomplished much more than becoming the winningest football coach in Mississippi State history, more than carrying us to more bowl games than any other coach, more than carrying us to the SEC Championship game, more than all the national television exposures than any other coach. He showed the Bulldog family that they could compete for championships. He totally changed the expectation level of Mississippi State football. This football program and this athletic program are a lot better because of Jackie Sherrill.
Very few people have gotten to know what a special person Jackie Sherrill is away from football. He has touched hundreds of young people in so many ways. The old coach has a heart and a smile for those who need a special hug.
I wish for Jackie and Peggy the happiest of retirement days in the coming months and years. Very few coaches ever reach the retirement milestone in their careers. The Bulldog family joins me in saying, "Job well done my friend."
Statement from Dr. J. Charles Lee, Mississippi State University President:
Under Coach Jackie Sherrill's direction, Mississippi State teams and fans became accustomed to winning. When he came to Mississippi State in 1991, Coach Sherrill inherited a football program that had had one winning season in nine years. His great contribution to our university was to raise expectations, and that legacy will serve the institution well as we look to the future.
More than 100 of Coach Sherrill's players during his career have gone on to professional football. But more significantly, more than 80 percent of the student-athletes who have played for him have earned their degrees. During his time at MSU, our football team has compiled one of the nation's most outstanding player graduation rates.
Coach Sherrill's concern for others, and for young people in particular, extends beyond the football field. He has quietly, for many years, given his support to causes including the Leukemia Society of Pittsburgh, The Boys Club, the Shriners Children's Hospital of Houston, The Boy Scouts, and the Palmer Home for Children in Columbus.
It is that concern for others for his players and for all MSU students, alumni and fans that has led Coach Sherrill to his decision at this time. His determination to do what he believes is best for Mississippi State University is an indication of his character and his courage, and it is the mark of a winner. In the annals of Mississippi State football, Coach Sherrill will be recorded as a winner, on and off the field.
The entire Mississippi State family joins in wishing all the best in the future to Coach Sherrill and Peggy, and all of their family.