The Southern Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has enjoyed continuing support from the University family and has, in turn, been responsible for helping make Southern Miss the well-known and widely respected institution that it is today. Former Southern Miss President Dr. William McCain perhaps expressed that relationship best when he said:
"The intercollegiate athletic program is important in the history of any educational institution. It can gain recognition for a school in the region and national press, stimulate alumni support, be an effective recruiting device, be an entering wedge for increased legislative support, and change the whole tone of the life of an institution."
In 2012, the Southern Miss Athletic Department will celebrate “100 Years of Championships and Commencements.” The year-long celebration will feature numerous nods to the past as we celebrate our history over the first 100 years of football at the University. Throwback uniforms, special promotions and events and more will begin the dot the Golden Eagle landscape throughout the course of the 2012 season.
A countless number of Golden Eagle fans have enjoyed the experience of collegiate football at Southern Miss and, more often than not, those same fans have enjoyed the thrill of victory. It all began on October 13, 1912 when men from Mississippi Normal College (the school's first name) played the Hattiesburg Boy Scouts who were coached by Claude Bennett who later became president of the Mississippi State Teacher College, the Normal College's second name. This inaugural football contest, which consisted of four, eight-minute quarters, was held at Kamper Park, which remained the football team's home until 1932. The Normal College team won the game 30-0, in front of the many students that walked the mile or so to the field.
The program continued its rise under the leadership of Reed Green and Pie Vann into the 1950s when they won their first of two national championships as a college division team. The first, coming on a chilly Thanksgiving afternoon in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Southerners, as they were known at the time beat the Moccasins 20-13 including the legendary “Goal Line Stand” to win the inaugural UPI College Division National Championship. The squad regained their title as national champions in 1962 when they defeated Louisiana Tech 29-18 on homecoming.
Over the years, Southern Miss has played in a myriad of big games and have often gone into those games as the underdog, but perhaps no other game typifies that than the October 17, 1970 showdown at No. 4 Ole Miss. Led by then-Heisman trophy candidate Archie Manning, the Rebels were riding high but fell to their in-state foes 30-14 in one of the biggest upsets in college football.
Two years later, the Golden Eagles were born, beating out such names as the Golden Raiders, Timber Wolves and War Lords. The Reggie Collier-led Golden Eagles carried on the tradition of winning big games and in 1982, knocked off No. 17 Alabama, 38-29, inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, snapping legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant's 57-home game winning streak in his final home game.
And to top it off, in the final year before the centennial, Austin Davis led his No. 19 Golden Eagles into the Cougar's Den at Houston where they knocked off the No. 8 Cougars 49-28 to secure the team's C-USA best fifth championship.
Southern Miss football has remained one of the nation's preeminent programs. Now in our 100th year, Southern Miss boasts 18 consecutive winnings seasons, 10 straight bowl games, five C-USA championships, two national championships and 100 years of championships and commencements.