Matt Wyatt is a former Mississippi State quarterback (1996-99) from Russellville, Ala. A veteran TV sports anchor and radio talk-show host, Wyatt is the color analyst for MSU football and hosts The Matt Wyatt Show every weekday on radio stations across Mississippi.
Q. Let’s get right to what everyone is talking about. What are your thoughts on Mike Leach as the new head football coach at Mississippi State and Lane Kiffin the new head coach at Ole Miss?
A. Until i see otherwise, i believe both are perfect hires. Sometimes in life, we hope we get what we need and not necessarily what we want. Ole Miss is getting Lane Kiffin at the perfect time in his life. At least that’s my observation. They probably wouldn’t have hired Lane Kiffin 5 or 10 years ago. Tennessee did and shouldn’t have. But I think Ole Miss is getting him at a time when his life perspective has changed, based on what I’ve seen and read. I watched his press conference and I liked the fact that he wasn’t up there doing a lot of “rah rah” stuff He’s there to coach football. That’s what he needs and what they need.
I could say exactly the same ting for Mike Leach. It feels like the right marriage. He’s run two Power 5 programs — both of which were not Texas or Oregon but Texas Tech and Washington State.
It just seems like the chronological timelines of these two programs seem to intersect with these two coaches’ lives at the right time.
Q. If Joe Moorhead wins the Music City Bowl or if Matt Luke wins the Egg Bowl are we even discussing both Leach and Kiffin coaching in Mississippi at the same time?
A. Probably not.
Q. Recruiting is in the news with the late signing period for college football beginning Feb. 5. How closely do you follow it and how do you personally judge a school’s signing class?
A. I let other people follow it closely. I can’t think of a quicker way to to be made to look foolish than to base my opinions on player rankings.
A majority of fans go only go by these “star” ratings given by recruiting services such as 247 and Rivals. That’s how they judge their team’s signing class. That’s what drives the recruiting conversations. They don’t want to hear that a kid who is rated a 3 star (on a 5-star scale) might wind up playing in the NFL.
The way I judge a class (at Mississippi State), I’m gonna go to practice and see what the freshmen look like, talk to a coach or two — people you trust — about different players. And coaches will be incredibly honest. They’ll say “This kid has a long way to go” or “That kid that nobody’s talking about, you’d better watch him. He’s gonna play in the NFL.’
Take (offensive lineman) Elgton Jenkins, for instance. Not much was said about him when he signed (in 2014). But I’m watching him go through drills. He’s 6-4 1/2 and can move. I thought, ‘If they can put some weight on this kid, he’s got a chance.” Now, he’s starting for the Green Bay Packers. You just never know.
Q. You are SEC Commissioner for a day. What changes do you make?
A. First off, I would totally revamp part of the process for how officials are hired, designated and assigned certain games. Under no circumstance would an official from the state of Alabama — or living in the state of Alabama — ever officiate an Alabama or Auburn game.
If you look at the roster of SEC referees, an overwhelming percentage of them are from Alabama or living in Alabama. I think the roster should reflect the population size of our conference’s footprint. If Texas and Florida are our two largest states, then the roster should show that.
And if a guy is from Podunk, Texas and it’s going to cost us some money to put him on a plane to call a game in, say, South Carolina, I don’t care. The SEC has money. Put him on a plane and let him call the game.
And the second thing I’d do is, outside of live games being broadcast, I would have the SEC Network showing 24 hours of classic games instead of having guys sitting at a desk talking into microphones and being stupid. I think people would much rather watch South Carolina vs. Alabama in 1995 or Auburn vs. Georgia during the Bo Jackson era.
Q. How do you see the role of sports talk radio and how it’s evolved?
It’s certainly changed in Mississippi. A long time ago, Paul Finebaum and other guys had popular shows in Alabama. And it was a feeling among the fans over there that “This is our show about our teams.” Mississippi didn’t really have a lot of that 15 years ago. Maybe in Jackson but certainly nothing in north Mississippi.
One of the reasons I got into sports radio in 2007 is that i felt like Mississippi needed shows similar to those in Alabama. I started with MISS 98 (WWMS-97.5 in Tupelo), a 100,000-watt station that played country music. They put me on for an hour in the afternoon, and we were able to sell plenty of advertising for it. I found out then that people wanted to hear about the Bulldogs and Rebels every day. That was my motivation, that the people wanted it.
It has evolved to the point where you have multiple people making a living doing sports talk radio in Mississippi now, and that certainly wasn’t the case 15 years ago. I think it’s been proven that if you put someone on the air who has the gift of gab, so to speak, and is knowledgeable and as passionate as the listeners, sports talk will work.