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Blazers, Trojans share special football bond

Troy and UAB are very much like brothers.

The two in-state rivals have a relationship much like male siblings do. While the two football programs may not get along currently, UAB owes quite a bit of thanks to their big brothers, the Trojans.

Troy head coach Larry Blakeney remembers back to the early days of the UAB program, and a phone call he received from then Blazer head coach Jim Hilyer.

UAB’s program was in its infancy, and needed opponents. Blakeney agreed to send the Troy State JV team to Birmingham twice a season in order to help the fledgling program get on its feet.

Since then, the annual UAB/Troy game has developed in to quite the rivalry. Troy leads the all-time series 7-4. Every game since 2009 has been decided by 13 points or less, including a pair of one-point wins.

The rivalry is full of close games and exciting finishes, but one heartbreaking loss stands out in Blakeney’s mind more than any other game against the Blazers.

“There’s been some exciting finishes,” Blakeney said. “The long throw in Birmingham (in 2010) was a tough day for Troy folks. We kicked them dead on the 1-yard line and then we let them get in position to throw the ball up. Although the ball was a half-yard short of the goal line, we should’ve never let them get that close. It’s a gut-wrenching series. It’s an important game for everybody – them, too.”

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Smartt following father’s lead, enters coaching profession

During last week’s press conference to name Mark Smartt as the next head baseball coach at Troy, one his fellow coaches had tears rolling down her face and an ear-to-ear grin.

But this coach holds an extra special place in Mark’s heart. It is his daughter, Taylor.

Taylor Smartt will enter the coaching profession this fall with the Troy softball team, following a stellar four-year career with the Trojans.

With the fundamentals of baseball and softball being closely tied, Taylor said she would use lessons from dad in her coaching.

“I have learned so many things from my dad over the years,” Taylor said. “He always wanted us to make sure that we were doing the right thing, even if no one was there to see it. I want to instill that same kind of attitude in my players.”

Smartt finished here career by appearing in every game during her junior and senior seasons. During her career, she drove in 40 RBIs and hit three home runs.

For her entire life, Taylor has known her dad as “the coach.” Now, she will know him as her colleague.

“We had a staff meeting the other day, and he kind of looked at me and said ‘What are you doing here?’” Taylor said. “It will be new relationship. When I call him not, it won’t be as a player. I will be able to ask him a question as a coach, and I know he will give me his honest opinion.”

Smartt has loved the game of softball since she was a small child. She played her way through the recreation leagues, and starred for the Charles Henderson Lady Trojans in high school.

Now, Smartt gets to continue her love for the game as a coach and gets to share her experiences to help other players develop.

“I love the game and I don’t want to get out of it,” Taylor said. “I really find happiness in seeing others succeed. Seeing kids get excited when they do things they never thought they could do is amazing. I can’t wait to help these girls do big things.”

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Blakeney: Silvers has edge in quarterback race

Throughout fall camp, one question loomed over the Troy Trojans like an Alabama afternoon thunderhead: Who will be the starting quarterback?

Following Saturday’s second scrimmage, the battle to replace school-record holder Corey Robinson is beginning to take shape.

Troy hasn’t named a starting quarterback, and probably won’t until the first week of the season, but head coach Larry Blakeney said one signal caller has nosed out in front of the others.

“I would say Silvers has the edge right now,” Blakeney said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “All of them can make plays, it just comes down to who doesn’t make mistakes and not turn it over. We will pare it down some soon. We have two week until UAB, and we will have to be ready to play.”

Brandon Silvers redshirted last fall. In high school, Silvers threw for over 3,800 yards and was rated as the 27th best quarterback of his class.

If Silvers does get the nod, he will follow in Robinson’s footsteps in more ways than one.

Out of high school, Robinson greyshirted when he arrived on campus then redshirted his second season, before taking over the offense in 2010.

Silvers would be traveling the same road.

Silvers was a member of Troy’s scout team last year, and feels ready for the challenge of taking over the high-powered Trojan attack.

“I feel good about my chances,” Silvers said. “I just need to come in every day and keep working.”

During Saturday’s scrimmage, the offense moved in sync throughout the day. Jordan Chunn and Brandon Burks rumbled for yards on the ground, and Silvers, along with Dontreal Pruitt and Dallas Tidwell, picked up yards in the air.

But perhaps the best performance of the day came from receiver Chandler Worthy.

Worthy reeled a handful of passes from Silvers, and used his quickness to rack up a load of yards after the catch. His efforts dew praise from Blakeney.

“Sixteen (Worthy’s jersey number) is key to us,” Blakeney said. “If he can keep making plays like he did today, then he will make them guard him and double cover him and everyone else will be open. Anytime you can make big plays in the passing game, it helps open things up for the running game, as well as the short and intermediate passing game.”

While the offense surged Saturday, the much-maligned Troy defense seemingly took a step backwards.

After controlling the first scrimmage, the Trojan defensive unit had a tough go of it in the second. Linebacker Mark Wilson had to tip his hat to the offense.

“We came out a little flat, but you have to give credit to the offense,” Wilson said. “It is scary how good they can be when they are clicking. Earlier in the week, they were bombs of Baghdad on us. We get great work going against them”

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Blakeney talks football with nutrition center fans

Blakeney talks football with nutrition center fans

Troy University head football coach Larry Blakeney was the special guest at the Troy Nutrition Center Tuesday. Blakeney talked football with the seniors and stayed around for lunch and a photo opportunity with a few Trojan fans. Pictured with Blakeney, from left, Hassie Green, Center director, Millie Baker, Tom Gower, Mary Daniels, Eva Collins, Alice Henderson, Raymond Wheeler, Lamar Lowery and Charlie Terry. (Messenger photo/Jaine Treadwell)
Troy University head football coach Larry Blakeney was the special guest at the Troy Nutrition Center Tuesday. Blakeney talked football with the seniors and stayed around for lunch and a photo opportunity with a few Trojan fans. Pictured with Blakeney, from left, Hassie Green, Center director, Millie Baker, Tom Gower, Mary Daniels, Eva Collins, Alice Henderson, Raymond Wheeler, Lamar Lowery and Charlie Terry. (Messenger photo/Jaine Treadwell)

The Troy Nutrition Center often welcomes special guests into their haven. Sometimes the seniors just get plain giddy about the guest that walks through the door.

Such was the case, Tuesday when Troy University head football coach, Larry Blakeney, made a guest appearance at the nutrition center.

“Everyone was so excited that Coach Blakeney would take time from his busy schedule to visit us,” said Hassie Green, center director. “Football season is right around the corner so this is a busy time for Coach Blakeney. We really appreciate him taking time to come to the center and talk football with us.”

Blakeney explained several of the new rules of the game to the seniors and told them why the rules are needed.

“People get excited about football. “It’s a big sport in several ways,” Blakeney said. “It’s big in popularity and it’s played by big people.”

Blakeney said that, over the years, players have continued to grow bigger in size, stronger, faster, quicker and more agile.

“Training is part of the reason,” he said. “Nutrition, diet and even pre-natal care play a role. And, as players get bigger and stronger, we have to be more concern about their safety as they play the game.”

Blakeney said the rule changes have been made with the players’ safety in mind.

“At Troy University, we want our players to play hard and to be aggressive but we also want them to be safe,” he said.

One of the seniors, laughingly, said that if football is going to be just a game of tag, she’ll watch soccer.

The seniors agreed with Blakeney that the Trojans won’t take the field to play tag.

At age 95, Charlie Terry, was the most senior football player in the house.

“I played a little football but I wasn’t a star,” he said. “I played mostly on the practice team and on the sandlots. That was a lot of fun – on the sandlots. We’d get up a bunch and play. I didn’t get to run the ball a lot. I mostly blocked and tackled.”

Terry said he loves to watch football games, and the Trojans and Alabama are his favorite teams.

“I used to go to Troy’s games when they were here, but, when you’re 95, you don’t go as many places as you used to,” Terry said, laughing. “I’d like to see a Troy game. That stadium looks real good but it’s hard for me to get around. It sure is nice for Troy to have a place like that and a team to root for.”

Green said the Troy Nutrition Center supports Troy University and its athletic programs.

“Our seniors get to go see the basketball teams play and we just might get to go see a football game,” she said. “We sure would like that.”

Green again thanked Blakeney for visiting with the seniors at the Troy Nutrition Center.

“Troy University is supportive of our Center and our seniors throughout the year and we look forward to having faculty members and students as part of our programming,” she said.

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Pints & pigskins

Pints & pigskins

Photo illustration/April Garon
Photo illustration/April Garon

Fans weigh in on beer sales inside Veterans Memorial Stadium

Football fans attending Troy games this fall will find a new item on the concession menu: beer.

After completing a “trial run” during the 2014 baseball season, Troy officials plan to continue alcohol sales are Trojan sporting events, including football games, in the future.

Troy Athletic Director John Hartwell said sales went smooth during the spring, and anticipates no issues during the 2014 football season.

“Baseball was a great opportunity to roll it out and we have done a lot of planning for football season,” Hartwell said.

Beer sales at football games will be conducted in the same manner as at baseball events. Patrons over the legal drinking age of 21 will have the opportunity to acquire a wristband allowing them to purchase beverages.

Four to six beer kiosks will be located around the stadium, out of view of television cameras, and beers will be poured from 16-ounce cans in to plastic cups.

Troy is nowhere near the first NCAA institution to allow sales at sporting events. Sun Belt Conference, and in-state, rival South Alabama has offered alcohol at games for over a decade.

Several major conference schools, such as Minnesota and West Virginia, have hopped on the hops bandwagon as well in recent season.

While beer sales may bring more spectators to the stadium to begin with, most Troy fans are in agreement the new concession option is designed to do two things: build revenue for the athletic program and enhance the game day atmosphere.

Michael Lambert, a Troy University alumnus and lifelong Trojan fan, sees only positives from allowing alcohol sales.

“People are going to drink beer at the game anyway,” Lambert said. “In order to grow and support the tax base of this town, the program needs revenue; season ticket sales aren’t going to get us to the next level. John Hartwell has done a fantastic job exploring revenue options and getting us better schedules. Beer sales will help us fill the ‘Vet’, and might even bring a few tailgaters in to the game that would otherwise stay outside.”

Hartwell said Troy Athletics experienced an $8,000 increase in revenue from beer sales at baseball games.

While the NCAA still bans the sale of alcohol at championship events, such as the Final Four and College World Series, and some conferences – most notably the SEC – don’t allow beer sales at league games, the Sun Belt has long been OK with the process.

Troy will become the 10th Sun Belt member, out of 12 league teams, to offer the beer option to fans. Brian Ross, the unofficial Dean of Troy fans, feels the positives of beer sales outweigh the negatives by a large margin.

“It will add revenue to the program, and we badly need it,” Ross said. “Most conferences already allow it, and have had seen alcohol related incidents actually go down. The cons are that there will probably not be any more passes out of the game, and fans have grown accustomed to that. All it does is give the fans that want to enjoy a beer while watching the game the option to do so.”

West Virginia implemented beer sales at football games in 2011, generating upward of $500,000 in new revenue while seeing fewer incidents of rowdy fan behavior related to binge drinking outside the stadium. Minnesota sold beer and wine at TCF Bank Stadium as part of a two-year pilot program beginning in 2012 and reported a $181,678 profit last season

Ross, known as HemiMan to Troy fans, fully expects Troy to follow the same trend.

“Having the option of getting a beer inside the stadium could probably make the tailgate binge drinking go down,” Ross said. “There is now no rush to finish your beverages before going to the game. I think it will create for better fan atmosphere and an overall better game day experience.”

Hartwell invited people to contact him with any questions or concerns and was met with only two. The sales generated one complaint from a season ticket holder and one disapproving letter from First Baptist Church.

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Denison remembers TSU national title ‘like it was yesterday’

Joey Denison can’t help but smile when recalling that windy night in south Texas 30 years ago.

Denison, offensive and defensive line coach for the Pike County Bulldogs, was an offensive lineman for the Trojans during the run to the NCAA Division II Football National Championship in 1984.

Denison’s main role on the title team was blocking on extra points and field goals, but due to a freak injury in the semi-final round of the playoffs, Denison wasn’t on the field for Ted Clem’s famous 50-yard field goal to win the championship.

He wasn’t on the field, but Denison does remember what went through his mind as Clem’s kick sailed throw the uprights.

“The first thought that crossed my mind was ‘Oh, my God. We just won the national title’,” Denison said with a laugh. “We were all a little stunned, but then went crazy. It was the end of a great season.”

Denison starred at Charles Henderson during hi high school days, winning an Alabama High School Athletic Association State Championship in 1980 and being selected All-Area and All-South Alabama Football Conference player.

After finishing at Charles Henderson, Denison inked with North Alabama. However, his time in Florence was short.

“I stayed at UNA for a year,” Denison said. “I redshirted my first year up there, basically because I didn’t know how to pass block. We ran the wishbone in high school, so when I got up there I didn’t know about all this going backward stuff.”

Denison left the Lions for Troy State after his freshman year, and worked his way on to the field as part of the Trojan special teams unit in 1984.

He blocked for Clem’s kicks all season long, but suffered an injury during TSU’s blowout win over Towson State in the semifinals.

“It was just one of those freak incidents,” Denison said. “The pile of folks went right and I went left. I didn’t think I would be able to play the rest of the time, but I made it back and got to play a little.”

Following his career at Troy, Denison moved on to Jacksonville State as a graduate assistant for four seasons, before beginning his high school career at Eufaula.

He made stops at Hillcrest of Evergreen, Charles Henderson and Luverne before arriving at Pike County in 2008.

Denison said he uses lessons learned from former Troy State head coach Chan Gailey and assistant Jay Jefcoat in his daily dealing with Pike County athletes.

“We just want to get the most out of guys every day,” Denison said. “Coach Gailey did that back then, and we do it as well. If our guys get just a little bit better every day, then things are going well.”

Despite his playing days being 30 years in the past, Denison says he knows exactly where both of championship rings are.

“They don’t fit on the right finger anymore, but I still have the Charles Henderson state title and the national title ring,” Denison said. “They are good reminders of the fun we had playing football and the great friends we made along the way.”

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series profiling local coaches that played for Troy University. If you have a coach you would like to see featured, email

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Little of this, little of that

AD John Hartwell breaks down how Troy’s football schedule comes to be

John Hartwell doesn’t wear a white lab coat; he opts for a polo shirt. His desk is covered with loose papers and Sports Business Journals not equations and chemical mixtures.

But one thing is for certain, Hartwell is a scientist and so far during his time at Troy his experiments have been a success.

Hartwell, entering his second full school year as Troy’s athletic director, says a lot of things go in to creating a football schedule in NCAA Football Bowl Sub-Division.

“We are looking for what is in the best interest for Troy,” Hartwell said. “We have found a system that we like to base our upcoming schedules on. We want to have that sixth home game every year for a variety of reasons, but that isn’t always the case. We like what we have been able to do, but will make changes if we need to.”

Troy will have only five home games in 2015, but Hartwell said that would not be the status quo going forward.

“2015 is a bit of an anomaly,” Hartwell said. “We don’t get a sixth home game, because we had to satisfy the back end of a the 2-for-1 deal with Mississippi State. We are back to five home games in ’15, but I anticipate that being our last year where we don’t have six home games.

When Troy first entered FBS, the upper echelon of college football in the United States, the Trojans were often relegated to five, and sometimes only four, home games a year. Troy would play several “money games” against SEC, Big XVII, ACC and Big Ten teams early in the season and grab a handful of conference game late in the season.

As Troy has grown, Hartwell, and former Troy AD Steve Dennis, have been able to draw bigger, more established programs to the Trojans’ small corner of southeast Alabama. Missouri, Oklahoma State, Marshall and Mississippi State have all traveled to Veterans Memorial Stadium in recent year, and more are coming in the future.

Troy has deals signed to bring the defending ACC Coastal Division Champion Duke to Troy in 2014. Perennial national contender Boise State will make the cross-country trek to Troy in 2018.

“We will have four Sun Belt games at home on our future schedules,” Hartwell said. “With the other two games, we plan on to continue to bring in one FCS opponent and pay them. That should, on paper, be a little easier opponent. We also want to have one quality non-conference opponent to make our home schedule attractive. With Duke coming, Boise coming and NC State coming, we feel that combining them with our Sun Belt slate makes our home schedules very attractive.”

Over the last several seasons, more and more traditional powers have begun scheduling home-and-home series with “mid-major” teams.

Mississippi State traveled to Memphis a few years back, Texas A&M went to Louisiana Tech in 2012 and North Carolina recently visited East Carolina.

Hartwell said the shift to more national power teams hitting the road all boils down to dollars and cents.

“A lot of it deals with economics,” Hartwell said. “If you have a $100 million budget and 100,000 seat stadium, you really don’t have to go on the road for a non-conference game. You can pay a million dollars-plus to two teams and let them be your non-conference schedule. But I think the examples of NC State, Boise and Duke, that don’t have the huge stadiums and the unlimited budgets, that’s the tier I feel we have the best opportunity to have a series with.”

While Hartwell has the immediate future of Troy football all sewn up, he did mention there are spot open future schedules in case one of two certain schools decide to return his call.

Alabama is currently in the middle of a well-publicized search to fill out its 2015 schedule. The Crimson Tide lack one spot on the slate, and are having quite a difficult finding a suitor.

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle went on record in May saying the Tide “would take anybody,” to complete its 2015 schedule.

On second thought…maybe not anybody.

Hartwell said Troy made overtures to Alabama before signing a home-and-home deal with North Carolina State to lock up the Trojans’ 2015 schedule.

“Before we locked in for ‘15, we certainly had an opening and we let it be known that we had an opening,” Hartwell said. “We never got an return phone call from Tuscaloosa saying they were interested. That being said, we have openings in the future and invite the opportunity for us to either go to Tuscaloosa or Auburn and play.”

The schedule is full for the next few years, but Troy has feelers out as far in the future as 2022. Hartwell wants to make sure a proposed agreement is in the best interest of Troy before inking any sort of binding agreement.

“If you lock yourselves in to an agreement too much past five to seven years down the road, you set yourself up to miss some opportunities that come available in between,” Hartwell said. “I feel it is prudent to have a little flexibility in the schedule.”

Another issue Hartwell takes in to consideration when making schedule agreements is the future.

He learned that lesson the hard way during his time as an associate athletic director at Ole Miss.

“It is so hard to have a crystal ball eight years or a decade out,” said Hartwell. “You can’t really say what will be the condition of our program and what will be the status of the program we are playing. At Ole Miss, I was involved in scheduling Wyoming, Missouri and Wake Forest. We thought we would win the game at home and then have a tremendous shot to win the game on the road. But all those programs got better got quite a bit better over the time it took from scheduling to when the game was played. If you get too far out there, it becomes a roll of the dice”

Hartwell is usually at the Tine Davis Fieldhouse by 7 a.m. and after a quick morning workout he begins another day of growing Troy athletics.

“I want to win championships and sell more season tickets,” Hartwell said. “Those are just two of the positive things we are trying to do. We will take care of both.”

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Close to home

Close to home

Rodney Jordan works with offensive linemen during spring practice at Charles Henderson earlier this year. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)
Rodney Jordan works with offensive linemen during spring practice at Charles Henderson earlier this year. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Charles Henderson assistant coach played for Troy during transition to Division I

Rodney Jordan wasn’t a senior, but maneuvered his way to the front line for the run out. It was the biggest game he, and Troy State, had ever been in and he wanted to be a part of it.

Jordan and the Trojans stepped out of the tunnel shadow and in to the sunlight and the Sea of Red at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska against the highly ranked Cornhuskers.

It is a moment Jordan says he will never forget.

“There is a scene in the movie The Program where a freshman is running out of the tunnel and he stops to look at the crowd,” Jordan said. “I didn’t stop, but I was definitely looking around. To play in that environment, and a couple of weeks later at the Orange Bowl, is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Jordan played football at Troy from 1998-2002 as an offensive lineman, after a stellar high school career at Goshen.

While at Troy, Jordan helped the Trojans win the Southland Conference title in 1999 and pick up, what was at the time, the biggest win in school history by downing Southeastern Conference heavyweight Mississippi State 21-9.

Troy scored all 21 points in the second quarter to rout the Bulldogs in Starkville.

Jordan remembers the game for a variety of reasons.

“It was a really big win for us,” Jordan said with laugh. “The game, as you know, was played in a huge thunderstorm, and right after we scored the tornado sirens went off. We thought it was something over the sound system in the stadium going off because we scored, but little did we know a tornado was just a few miles from the stadium.”

During Jordan’s career at Troy State, he played against Nebraska, Mississippi State, Miami, Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa State but recounts big moments against smaller schools as some of the ones he remembers most.

“In 2001, the schedules all got shifted around because of the 9/11 tragedy,” Jordan said. “We wound up with an open date, and scheduled North Texas as the last game of the year. North Texas was the Sun Belt Conference champion that season, but we beat them on a last second field goal to win 18-16. They were the first team to ever go to a bowl game with a losing record, all because of Troy State.”

During the 2001 season, Troy played ACC Champion Maryland, Sun Belt champion North Texas, Big East Champion Miami and Big XII Regular Season Co-Champion Nebraska.

After Jordan completed his time at Troy, he entered the coaching world as a high school football coach.

He spent time in the Mobile area, before returning to his Alma mater, Goshen, in 2012.

He moved on to Charles Henderson the following season, and served as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator in 2013. Jordan has also spent time as an interim head coach for Charles Henderson.

Jordan said one of the biggest positives he received from his time at Troy is the close relationship formed with his coaches, most of all head coach Larry Blakeney.

“The coaches at Troy, like Coach Blakeney and Coach (Wayne) Bolt and Coach (Jim) Dye will do anything they can for their former coaches and players,” Jordan said. “It’s not just because I am across the street at Charles Henderson. I would talk to Coach Blakeney when I was down on the coast and he was always happy to help when he could. He has created a very inviting and family atmosphere at Troy, and I am very proud I was able to be a part of it.”

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series profiling local high school coaches that received varsity letters in sports at Troy University. More local coaches will be featured in upcoming editions of The Messenger.

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On the road again

On the road again

Beth Mullins comes to Troy after three successful seasons as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. Mullins, known as an excellent recruiter, feels that if she can get prospects to Troy, she will have no trouble getting them sign . (Photo/Mississippi State athletics)
Beth Mullins ,right, comes to Troy after three successful seasons as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. Mullins, known as an excellent recruiter, feels that if she can get prospects to Troy, she will have no trouble getting them sign . (Photo/Mississippi State athletics)

New Troy softball coach hard at work on recruiting trail

New Troy softball coach Beth Mullins has yet to find time to search for a place to live in her new hometown. Why hasn’t she taken a day to find a house? Because she is more focused on finding talent.

Less than 48 hours after accepting the offer, Mullins had Troy in her rear view mirror and was barreling up Interstate 85 to Atlanta on the recruiting trail. Mullins knows softball in the Deep South well, having grown up in Fairhope, Alabama, playing at UAB and coaching at Georgia Southern, UAB, Western Kentucky and most recently Mississippi State.

At every stop on her personal coaching carousel, Mullins has been a dynamic recruiter. She has every intention on bringing excitement back to Troy softball.

“I am beyond excited to be at Troy,” Mullins said. “From the minute I stepped on campus for my interview, I knew this is where I wanted to be. John (Hartwell, Troy athletic director) has a great vision for the future of all sports, and I am happy to be part of it.”

Trips to Birmingham and Colorado are on her itinerary in the coming weeks, with one single goal in mind: get players to Troy.

Mullins fully believes that if she can get players on campus, she can get them to fall in love with the facilities, the university and the town, much like she did earlier this year.

“Troy is a very special place,” Mullins said. “The university and town are full of amazing people, and I know that if these recruits get to interact with this amazing place, they will want to be a part of this program for four years.”

Troy finished as the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Runner-up in 2010, but has not posted a winning record in conference play since 2009. In the last five seasons, Troy has limped to 133-142-2 overall record and a dismal 43-66 mark in Sun Belt play.

Despite the lack luster record in recent seasons, Mullins said she can “easily sell Troy” to potential recruits. The Troy Softball Complex recently underwent a major renovation, including field and dugout improvements and the addition of the Dodds Center.

The Dodds Center, an 8,000 square foot facility located adjacent to the field, houses a player locker room, player lounge, athletic training room and hitting and pitching areas.

“The school in itself sells itself,” Mullins said. “This great university has a lot of diverse majors, and is fully committed to athletics and softball. The softball facilities are some of the best in the nation without a doubt. If I had children, Troy is the place I would to send them to college.”

Mullins becomes just the second Troy softball coach ever.

Former head coach Melanie Davis resigned in May. Davis compiled a 780-509-4 record over her 21 seasons at Troy and led the Trojans to a pair of conference titles and one NCAA Regional berth.

The day after being hired, Mullins met with six returning Troy players and laid the foundation on which the new era of Troy softball will be built.

“The girls I met with fired me up even more,” Mullins. “They are a hard working group that I am excited to work with. We are going to work together to get Troy back to where we want to be: competing for conference titles.”

Mullins won’t stop to rest, or go house hunting, until she has Troy winning again. If her master plan comes together, she will be doing both very soon.

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Upset-minded Troy opens Sun Belt tourney against Arkansas State

Each and every member of the Troy baseball team knows what they have to do to make it back to the NCAA Regionals.

With the Trojans below .500 on the season, the only hope they have of advancing past this weekend is to win the tournament.

Troy, the No. 6 seed in the tournament, opens the Sun Belt Championship Wednesday against Arkansas State. The Trojans and Red Wolves played a close, highly contested three-game series in Jonesboro two weeks ago. Troy won the first game of the series 2-1, before falling 10-7 and 8-5 in the final two games.

“We didn’t have a lot of confidence going up there, but we got a great pitching performance to open the series and get a win,” said Bobby Pierce, Troy head coach. “We didn’t get another win up there. We should have, but we didn’t. We were forced to come back down here and fight our way in to the tournament. We did and now it is a new season for us.”

Prior to losing to the final two games this season, Troy had won 13 straight games in Jonesboro against Arkansas State.

Pierce feels the Sun Belt Conference will get a maximum of two bids to NCAA Regionals this year, so he is placing utmost importance on the tournament.

“I think we will get a couple of teams in this year,” Pierce said. “It Lafayette wins the tournament, then I think it will probably be just one. We expect to have a very close, tight game with Ark State, like all of our games this year. It’s a new season now. Everyone is zeroed out. All it takes is five perfect days and things are all good again.

The Trojans are 15-12 all-time in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and looks to claim its first tournament title since 2006.

Troy and Arkansas State are set for a 4 P.m. first pitch from Stanky Field on the campus of the University of South Alabama in Mobile.