Just over a month ago, SB Nation and Liberty Mutual contacted me with an incredible opportunity. The email by which I was reached bore the title 'Interested in Interviewing Archie Manning?'
So interview him I did. It was a fifteen minute discussion held right before the kickoff of the 2011 season. We talked about Ole Miss' new athletics capital campaign, conference expansion, the nature of college coaching, the pervasiveness of social media in sports today, his role as a spokesman and voter for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and the outlook for the Ole Miss Rebels football program going forward. We hope you enjoy it.
RCR: Archie, thank you for agreeing to do this with us. I guess to kick things off I'd like to talk about the Forward Together campaign. How do you feel about the school's recent announcement to raise $150M to expand the football and basketball facilities. Is this Ole Miss taking a competitive edge, or is this "keeping up with the Joneses?"
Archie: I think it will give Ole Miss an edge, but we are in a great conference of schools that raise a lot of money and have fantastic facilities. We've hung in there over the past few years with the facilities we've got - with a stadium that's good but smaller - so it could give the football program a real edge once it is finished.
The basketball facility is needed, so I'm glad to get that underway. The indoor facility is great and something we should all be proud of. The indoor facility we've built for basketball can go head-to-head with anybody out there, so we need an arena to match that.
The conference is probably going to grow too, so we will have to expand and continue to improve.
RCR: Speaking of conference growth, it appears that the Texas A&M Aggies are all but a done deal to the SEC. Does the idea of expanding the SEC diminish the conference's history and tradition? There is a ton of talk around Texas A&M; do they fit in the SEC?
Archie: think it'd be good. Texas A&M is a wonderful school with great traditions. To us, the idea of a Texas team or school seems a little foreign, but maybe Arky and South Carolina seemed that way twenty years ago. But they've been a good fit for the SEC. They're a part of the family. I think a Texas school coming in will be unique and it will work. It will also open up recruiting in Texas as well as allow Texas A&M to recruit throughout the high schools in the South. It benefits everyone.
RCR: And a 14th school? They would have to add one at this point.
Archie: At this point, I do not know who the 14th school will be. The conference is really strong, and adding Texas A&M makes it stronger. The 14th school should do the same.
RCR: How do you feel about social media? On the one hand, a lot of college players today use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with fans. But on the other hand, a lot of players have gotten in some significant trouble due to things said or done via social media. What are your thoughts on this?
Archie: I have no problem with the social media. I do think it is a bit much. I saw where an athlete [ED: Arian Foster] put his MRI on Twitter earlier, which is strange. I just don't get it. Why is that important?
I don't mean to sound old fashioned, but they have their time with the media - the players have their time to meet with and talk to the media - which is fine. But hearing every day what people put out on Twitter - it's out of place in sports and athletics.
When Twitter got started, Peyton was told that he would have to get on it because it would be the next big thing. Well he didn't, and people still know who he is. He gets enough time with the media as it is.
RCR: You are currently the national spokesman and a College Hall of Fame voting member on the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year selection committee. The award is presented annually to one head football coach in each NCAA division who best exemplifies sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence on and off the field. When you are casting your vote, what is it that you look for in a coach?
Archie: It depends on what kind of year you're having. Of course that means winning games, but it's not just based on how many games you win. We take a really good look at the program as a whole and what direction it is headed in. We really like to honor coaches due to their scholar athletes.
Good programs have a habit of having outstanding scholar athletes. We look at that, graduation rates, how the athletes are doing in the classroom, what type of community projects and service they are involved in, because that lets us get an overall feel for the coach. Coaches are supposed to bulid men, and build leaders.
RCR: There seems to be a mercinary-like nature to college coaching today. By that I mean that coaches don't stick around for their entire careers like Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden would. It seems that they're just taking a paycheck to win games and, if they can't do the latter, they get fired. How do you feel about this newer nature of college coaching?
Archie: At the bowl division, the top level of football, you'll probably not see the Bobby Bowdens anymore. There is just so much pressure put on coaches, pressure that is hard to stand up to it for that long of a period of time. You look at successful guys like Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno - they had solid comfort in solid programs and were able to stick with it in thick and thin - even though they finally got coach Bowden fired in Florida.
I think you'll still see it in division two and division three, where coaches can stay for a longer period of time.
RCR: Something a lot of Ole Miss fans have wondered is whether or not you have ever considered coaching. Is it something you've thought about?
Archie: That's passed me by. When I retired from football I probably considered it. But I played until I was 36 years old. I might have considered it had I not stuck in the NFL for so long or had I not gone pro. But especially at my age and having played pro for so long, I couldn't have done it.
But I love coaches. I know a lot of them I know and respect. There is a "fraternity of coaches" out there, and they are all close. Aside from fathers, coaches have a greater influence over you than anyone if you're a young football player. They really are some great people.
RCR: What are your thoughts on the upcoming Ole Miss football season and how the Rebels will finish in the SEC?
Archie: We've got a tough schedule in a tough league. In this league, I think that Arkansas will be good. Bobby Petrino's done a great job. Down at the Manning camp, we got to see Tyler Wilson and we were impressed with him. He has a lot of talent and a good drive and having worked under Coach Petrino he really has developed. But even then we can't say who it will be (who wins the SEC) now. We can only speculate on wins and losses at this point.
You know, we are coming off of a year that wasn't successful at Ole Miss. I know the fans want more, and I know we have a good coach. I also know that we have added several good coaches to assist - I know them and think they're good. As an Ole Miss fan, I want to be able to compete, and I think that is a reasonable goal. The SEC is a league where we have some great teams - teams that win national championships. You have to play hard and be competitive every single week. There really are no roll over games.
Hopefully we can stay healthy and continue to improve. It is worrisome that there is no experience at quarterback for Ole Miss, which means that the running game is important. The Rebels will need to run the ball well to take the heat off of the quarterback and hopefully open up the passing game.
RCR: Archie, thank you.
Archie: Thank you.