By: Brian Rice
SEC Digital Network
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For Mississippi State’s Sharon Fanning-Otis , the 2012 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament is another milestone in the final chapter of her storied career as the head coach of the Bulldogs. It will also be one of the final opportunities for fans to see a certain fashion accessory that has helped make Fanning-Otis famous in the conference and around the country.
“(TV announcer) Debbie Antonelli asked me if there was going to be another coach in the SEC that wears the team mascot,” Fanning-Otis said after her team’s practice at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday.
The mascot she refers to is a large Bulldog pendant that she has worn around her neck for nearly every game of her Mississippi State coaching career. While most coaches have a smaller lapel pin or rely solely on a team color shirt or jacket to sport team pride while working the sidelines, Fanning Otis’ much larger fashion statement has become yet another tradition that has set her program apart.
“My first class here gave me that,” Fanning-Otis said. “It’s still appropriate, so I still wear it. It goes with the blouse, and the blouse I’ve had for 20 years, so I might as well still wear the pendant.”
When the season concludes, Fanning-Otis will leave the sideline, but will remain a member of the MSU family, moving to a fundraising position in the athletic department where she hopes to help with projects that will benefit Bulldog athletes in a variety of sports in the future.
“I’m truly blessed after 37 years of coaching to go on and continue to serve in athletics and all of our sports,” she said of her new position. “There are a lot of roots there (Starkville), it’s home and there are a lot of tremendous friends and family. I turn 60 this year, and you can draw retirement, but I wasn’t ready to just sit and join the Hardee’s breakfast group at 7 o’clock every day.”
But for today, Fanning-Otis is ready for the task at hand, and that’s Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs’ opening round opponent in the tournament.
“As I’ve tried to approach everything (this season), I’ve had to approach what’s at hand,” Fanning-Otis said. “That means we have a game with Vanderbilt and that’s what I’ve got to focus on.”
At least one more game, and one more opportunity to sport her trademark pendant.
“It’s still a Bulldog.”
And so is she.