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President, director back Smith

December 5, 2005

With rumblings that his job might be in jeopardy after a second consecutive losing season, MSU head coach John L. Smith received a public show of support from MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Athletics Director Ron Mason at his year-end press conference Friday at Case Hall.

Simon said she knows the struggles MSU football has gone through the last 40 years, calling the team "a .500 operation". But she said she expects improvement, including a bowl game, in the team's future.

"We expect to go to bowl games and we expect to contend for championships," Simon said. "We're all on the same page with those expectations."

Through three years as head coach, Smith has gone to one bowl game, the 2003 Alamo Bowl. Since then, the team has a combined record of 10-13, which has led to some fans calling for his firing.

"As you would expect, over the course of the season, Director Mason, Coach Smith and I have talked and what's clear is that we're all committed to building a program," Simon said. "We're all committed to building a program the right way."

Smith, for one, is happy to have the support of his superiors and that support will go a long way in recruiting.

"It's crucial," Smith said. "(There was) speculation here, speculation there. Hey, this is our vision, we're going to build a program and that's what it's all about.

"It's great to stand up shoulder to shoulder with the AD and the president and talk about our vision, our vision for the program. It's great to have that support and that's what's going to take us in the right direction."

Simon said she believes having stability within the program is a key component in building a perennial winner. Bobby Williams served as head coach for just 33 games before Smith, while Nick Saban didn't make it through five seasons before bolting for LSU.

"We're a .500 football team that's tried many times to take shortcuts to success," she said. "If you look at the programs that are successful nationally, they've had stability, they've not taken shortcuts to success and they've worried about all the fundamentals on and off the field, which is exactly what Tom Izzo has done. We see the beginning parts of that."

Mason said he felt it was important to show support for Smith during recruiting season, when other schools will use any kind of negativity to deter possible recruits.

"I think it was critical right now that we stood up and the president stood up. She feels we're on course and I do too," Mason said. "I look at it as baby steps. When you turn a program around, the steps you take initially, they're baby steps. They're little steps that aren't noticed. Behind the scenes, in many cases."

Junior quarterback Drew Stanton has a different perspective than Simon and Mason in regard to knowing how well Smith is doing his job, and said he puts all his support behind his coach.

"I think he's the guy to lead this program and has it headed in the right direction," Stanton said. "We're headed there and have that stability that he brings to the table. He's won everywhere he's been and I think it's only a matter of time."

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