The Southeastern Conference has announced a fine structure for the inappropriate use of what it calls "traditional institutional noise makers" at SEC sporting events.

Implemented with the cowbells commonly heard at Mississippi State University football games in mind, the fines - $5,000 for the first offense, $10,000 for a second and $50,000 per game thereafter - are meant to put some teeth in the enforcement of a new cowbell compromise that allows MSU fans to ring their bells before games, at quarter breaks and halftime, during timeouts and possession changes, and after scores. The compromise, which basically allows the ringing of cowbells at the same times music can be played in the stadium, was crafted at the SEC meetings in June.

The MSU tradition is traced to the 1930s, when a jersey cow wandered onto the field during a game against Ole Miss. MSU won the game, and a good luck charm was born. In the early 1990s, the SEC established a policy that penalized teams yardage on the field for noisemaker use, but the NCAA subsequently scrapped a similar rule, forcing SEC officials to swallow their whistles on the issue.

The compromise expires next June, unless MSU fans prove themselves worthy of an extension. University officials vow to educate fans of their new cowbell constraints and enforce the rules with the same diligence they give MSU's policy regarding running onto the field.

"I'm very empathetic toward Mississippi State's situation," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said, as reported by The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss. "That's a tradition over there that means so much to the Mississippi State people."

How much? Clarion-Ledger beat writer Kyle Veazey offers a separate profile of one MSU fan who quit his job in order to produce and sell cowbells full time, and reaction to Veazey's blog posts on the topic provide further evidence of widespread investment in the tradition. Several readers commented that MSU should charge a dollar or two more per ticket to cover potential fines, thus allowing fans to ring at will.

Paul Steinbach is Senior Editor of Athletic Business.