Continuing a golden tradition: 100 years of Southern Miss football
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 02:09
The 2012 Southern Miss football season will mark 100 years of Golden Eagle football. Over the past century, Southern Miss has sprouted into one of the preeminent programs in not only the South but throughout the country.
Football at Southern Miss began shortly after the school was formed. The first game was on Oct. 13, 1912 against the Boy Scouts of Hattiesburg. Over the next century, Southern Miss would accumulate 560 wins, two national championships, eight conference titles and 10 bowl wins. Numerous professional football players sprouted from the Southern Miss football program as well, including Brett Favre, Ray Guy, Reggie Collier, Adalius Thomas and recent graduate Austin Davis.
On Oct. 13, 1912, Mississippi Normal College took the field against the Hattiesburg Boy Scouts at Kamper Park, which hosted games until the 1932 season. Southern Miss went on to beat the Boy Scouts 30-0.
Normal College would play two more games that season: a 6-0 loss to Gulf Coast Military Academy and a 6-0 win over Mobile Military Academy to finish the season with a 2-1 record.
Although the team had a winning record in its first season, the next twenty would prove to be challenging. The Yellowjackets - the nickname for the team in 1924 - would answer to eight different coaches and have a total record of 30-56-8. Most of these games were played against high schools and local, smaller colleges.
The team would continue to play local high schools, military academies and select colleges within the state until 1931, when the team joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association and began playing teams throughout the southeast.
Growth and Expansion:
Oct. 29, 1932 marked a new era of football at Southern Miss. The team, coached by Allison T.S. Hubert, began playing at the new, on-campus football field dedicated to L.E Faulkner, who built the field at no cost to the college.
The stadium at Faulkner Field, constructed in 1939, was built by the players, who were employed as construction workers to earn extra money on the side. The players gave the stadium the nickname “The Rock,” which is still in use today. With this new stadium, the team began to grow.
Unlike the earlier years of the program, the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s provided some consistency among the coaching staff. Coach Hubert accepted a job at Virginia Military Institute in 1936, opening the door for former Yellowjacket standout Reed Green to take over the program.
Green led the program for nine seasons and accumulated a record of 59-22-4. The team made its first postseason bowl game in 1937 when it defeated the previously unbeaten Appalachian State Teachers College 7-0 in Gulfport. The team also began challenging big name programs, including SEC teams Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss. The program also saw their first player taken in the NFL draft under Green when Joe Stringfellow went to the Detroit Lions in the 12th round. Green was also instrumental in recovering the program following WWII.
The biggest accomplishment during Green’s tenure as head coach was winning the program’s first conference championship.
Southern Miss joined a newly created conference in 1948. USM captured the inaugural Gulf States Conference championship on Nov. 14, 1948 when the program beat Southeastern Louisiana 27-0.
Green’s career as a head coach ended following the 1949 season. However, he took over as athletic director for the school at that time. Green’s long-time assistant Thad “Pie” Vann was chosen to take over as head coach, and Vann picked up right where Green left off.
In Vann’s first season as head coach, the Southerners won their second Gulf States Conference championship despite a 5-5 record by defeating Louisiana Tech 41-20 on Nov. 18, 1950. Vann was also named Conference Coach of the Year.
The program won its third Gulf States Conference title in 1951 by going 4-0 in conference play. This would be their last year in the conference, however. The school would continue to play as an independent school with no conference affiliation.
While the next few years would not provide any championships, the team began to defeat big name opponents. In 1953 and 1954, the Southerners defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in Montgomery, Ala.
In 1958, the Southerners won their first UPI College Division National Championship. The team went 9-0 under Vann’s guidance, with wins over NC State, Virginia Tech and Tennessee-Chattanooga to end the season and capture the championship.