Oct. 13, 2011
These times are exciting, nerve-racking and carry some uncertainty for Southern Miss athletics. The excitement comes from our football program which is currently 5-1, its best start in many years. It's the first time we have won all of our non-conference games since C-USA was founded in 1996 with impressive wins at Virginia and Navy.
The excitement is also flowing with the fall success of our men's and women's golf teams, our new softball coaching staff, positive improvements with our tennis and soccer programs and another academic award for our male student-athletes. The men's golf team won a tournament this fall for the first time in many years at Louisiana Tech and the women finished second in a tournament at South Florida. The softball team, under the direction of co-head coaches Jon Malgradi and Kirsten Voak, has had success in several exhibition games and has hosted several youth clinics, drawing record crowds.
Our overall men's graduation rate just won the coveted Halbrook Award for the eighth consecutive year. The award goes to the collegiate program in the State of Mississippi which has the highest graduation rate. We are very proud of the award that demonstrates we are performing very well in our mission to educate and graduate our student-athletes.
The nerve-racking uncertainty comes from the realignment of conferences around the nation. Most of the changes are motivated by all the institutions seeking more revenue and the desire to play at the highest level of postseason football. This uncertainty has truly created odd behavior among all those involved. Rumors have run rampant with some being true; however, most of them have been false.
Please be assured that Dr. Saunders and I have been very active in conversations behind the scenes and we are working diligently to put our program in the best possible position. The probability of the C-USA alliance with the Mountain West Conference continues to be very positive and is moving forward. The beauty of this is the fact it will give both leagues greater stability, will increase revenues drastically and provide much greater visibility and exposure to each program. Of course, it will also provide a more influential voice in the future role of the Bowl Championship Series. If a member or two is lost along the way, it will not be the demise of the league or cause it to lose its value.
More on excitement! Homecoming 2011 vs. SMU will be on Sat., Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. The game has the chance to be one of the best and most competitive homecoming games in many years. Both teams are competing for their division titles and the victor should move into the Top 25 rankings after the game.
In addition to the annual USM Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Friday night, three former football players, Bucky McElroy, Hugh Laurin Pepper and the late Bubba Phillips, will be inducted into the Legends Club. Included in the many homecoming activities, we will host all the former football captains for a lunch which we plan to make an annual tradition. We will recognize our award-winning women's track team during the game, crown the 2011 homecoming queen and showcase the University's Hall of Fame inductees.
We are also hosting college football's annual "Take a Kid to a Game" promotion. We hope you will buy an extra ticket and bring a "Kid to the Game." We need to make sure everyone wears their Gold, and are in the stadium to help lead the Golden Eagles to victory. BE LOUD AND PROUD!