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Mississippi State should lead color-blind search

There would be unavoidable irony in Mississippi State being the first SEC school to hire a black football coach, considering the state's history and reputation in race relations.

But there's a larger reason why hiring an African-American would be nice _ it would be a desperately needed step in the right direction in an area that has had exceedingly few steps in the right direction.

There are four black head coaches in Division I-A football out of 117. It is an appalling figure, for sure. That's one out of every 29. Adding just one will increase the black coaches fraternity by 25 percent.

Those figures make it seem like 1963 instead of 2003. Seventeen schools hired new coaches for this season. Only UCLA's Karl Dorrell was African-American.

Mississippi State, and every other school in search of a coach, needs to hire the one it thinks is best for the job _ white, black, purple, green, polka-dotted or other. But considering the ratio of black applicants is much better than one in 29, or one in 17, something smells funny here.

A number of respected and successful black coaches have expressed interest in the Mississippi State job, which will come open when Jackie Sherrill retires after the season. The Bulldogs' brass should get to know them. They might find one they like; they might not. If they do, they will begin to remove the stench from a festering situation.

_ PETE YOUNG

AND RAVE

Boise State thriving

in football anonymity

They wear orange and blue and ring up ridiculous scores with an ultra-efficient passing attack. But Steve Spurrier is nowhere in sight.

They play on blue turf and have their SportsCenter highlights mocked by Stuart Scott, who sings the Gilligan's Island theme song for star receiver Tim Gilligan (a walk-on from football "hotbed" Nevada) and mispronounces the name of 187-pound star quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie (Dinwiddle, he said).

But nothing can diminish the Boise State phenomenon. For consecutive seasons, the anonymous Broncos are accruing staggering statistics.

Dinwiddie's passing rating last season was 188.2; next best in Division I-A was 157.1 by Iowa's Brad Banks. This season Dinwiddie has 20 touchdowns and two interceptions.

More mind-boggling numbers: Last season Boise annihilated Fresno State, which was on its way to a nine-win season, 67-21. Then the Broncos got hot, winning their final six, including the Humanitarian Bowl over Iowa State, by an average 44-8. They finished 12-1 and No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25. In the only loss, at Arkansas, Dinwiddie was injured.

Boise State is rolling again, improving to 8-1 Thursday with a 50-12 dismantling of BYU in Provo. The lone loss was 26-24 at Oregon State. They've won the past three games by an average 57-9.

Boise State, football powerhouse? Believe it.

_ PETE YOUNG

Up next:FREEZE FRAME

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