Jeff's Journal - Troy Trojans celebrate milestone | News
TROY, AL (WSFA)- Regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the night, Saturday will long be remembered as a milestone victory in Troy's illustrious football history. The day a team from the vaunted Southeastern Conference brought its prestige and pedigree to Troy.
When Larry Blakeney took over the Trojans' program 22 years ago, few would have envisioned this momentous occasion happening.
Fortunately for Troy, two people did have the vision and foresight to imagine this occurring: Dr. Jack Hawkins and coach Blakeney himself.
"We can go as far as Troy people want to go," Blakeney has said many times over the years. When I first started covering the Trojans, Troy (then known as Troy State) was a Division-2 powerhouse, a regular in the postseason.
But Misters Hawkins and Blakeney had bigger aspirations. Aided by enthusiastic and equally ambitious athletic directors (Dr. Ken Blankenship, Johnny Williams, and Steve Dennis), Troy smoothly and methodically transitioned into what is now known as the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA), and ultimately the Big Time (Bowl Subdivision, or I-A as we used to call it).
Along the way, Troy has enjoyed a number of firsts: first victory over an SEC school (these same Mississippi State Bulldogs, in a monsoon in Starkville in 2001), first bowl game (the now-defunct Silicon Valley Classic in '04), and first bowl victory ('06 New Orleans Bowl).
All the while, Troy has recruited and developed many players who have well represented the school in the NFL, including one who is bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton (See DeMarcus Ware).
So what's next? And where does Troy fit in the big picture of college football?
If I were a stakeholder in Troy's program, I would use whatever influence I had to try to compel Auburn and Alabama to play the Trojans, an argument that would best be made legislatively.
Troy's case, especially in this economy, is airtight: Why should the state's SEC schools pay up to a million dollars to out-of-state universities to come to Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare, when the Trojans can be there in two or three hours, and those dollars can be kept in our state?
True, Auburn and Alabama will counter that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain by playing Troy (in effect empowering a potential rival), but I don't see it that way.
Because of Auburn and Bama's SEC membership, huge enrollments, stadium capacities, and 120-year football traditions, they don't have to worry about Troy spoiling their party.
The Trojans, with a stadium about one-third as large, don't need to aspire to compete at that level. It's unrealistic, and it's unnecessary.
There's plenty of room in the college football world for the SEC's big boys and next-level programs like Troy.
Rivalries with UAB, South Alabama (potentially) and conference opponents like Middle Tennessee can be every bit as compelling, when it's your school competing.
Trojan fans should take pride in how far their program has come, and what the future may bring. That could mean a return to Sun Belt supremacy, or perhaps joining a new conference as realignment shows no sign of slowing down.
In the meantime, enjoy the ride, and show the Bulldogs what a Saturday night in Pike County can be.
Like the coach says, the Trojans "can go as far as Troy people want to go."
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