OMAHA, Nebraska -- As baseball coach at Auburn the last seven years, including the team's current run to the Men's College World Series, Butch Thompson is thoroughly indoctrinated into War Eagle culture.
But his Southeastern Conference roots are as varied as they are deep. As such, he knows plenty about SEC rivalries from all kinds of unique angles.
As a native of Aberdeen, Mississippi, he grew up an Ole Miss fan like his father. Once a year, his dad, a huge Archie Manning fan, would take young Butch to an Ole Miss football game.
"That would be a special thing," Thompson said. "I'd go try to steal all the souvenir cups. I'd try to get 70 or 80 of those when I was young."
So when he first took the job as pitching coach at Mississippi State in 2009, leaving his job as an assistant coach at Auburn at the time, he admits that he was terrified to tell his old man.
"I didn't let him know I got the pitching job at Mississippi State when I took it the first time because he was such an Ole Miss guy. He wouldn't ever let it go," Thompson said. "And I got home before he ever heard of it because you don't hear about anything from Starkville, Mississippi in that house. I had a week to play with it. It wasn't on the social media stuff.
"I walked in and he's sitting there at the table and I threw a Mississippi State hat down. He's like, 'Boy, get that out of the house.' I said, 'I'm the new pitching coach at Mississippi State.' He put his head down and said, 'I guess blood's thicker than water, let's go.' "
Earlier in his career, Thompson also spent time as pitching coach at Georgia. Shortly after getting hired in 2002, he was called into the office of former legendary UGA football coach Vince Dooley, then the school's athletics director.
"Vince Dooley, the first time I sat down with him as a new employee, he asked me what I knew about the SEC," Thompson said. "I said, 'I remember I was in Oxford the day (former Georgia running back) Herschel (Walker) jumped over that line. He jumped over the pile and landed on his feet and ran into the end zone. I was absolutely there and I hated y'all.' "