Golden Eagle sports: The year that was
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 01:05
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
This is the best possible way to describe the season that was in Southern Miss athletics. We experienced great highs with Golden Eagle football’s record breaking season that culminated with a C-USA Championship to the men’s basketball team making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991. Then came the lows, after the dream seasons of both the football and men’s basketball teams, both teams found themselves without a head coach as Larry Fedora headed to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take over the UNC Tar Heels and Larry Eustacy left for the head job at Colorado State. Despite bidding farewell to two head coaches that led USM athletics to the peak of the mountain, two new coaches have been hired who will hopefully take us to the promise land. USM landed former South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to become the new head football coach and former Morehead State head basketball coach Donnie Tyndall to take over on the hardwood.
Football and men’s basketball went undefeated at home in the 2011-2012 athletic season, a feat that no other Division 1AA team accomplished. The football team saw unprecedented success with a record 12-win season and spoiled the Houston Cougars’ dreams of an undefeated season by handing them their only loss of the season in the C-USA Championship game. On top of winning the team’s fourth C-USA title in school history, the Eagles finished the season ranked in the Top 25. USM also completed their 16th straight winning season, a standard of excellence that only a hand-full of teams can boast. The men’s basketball team also made a mark by taking down C-USA foe the Memphis Tigers for the first time in the Eustacy era in route to the Golden Eagles’ first NCAA Tournament apperance since 1991.
Golden Eagle head baseball coach Scott Berry reached a significant achievement by becoming the coach to win 100 games the fastest. He passed names such as Hill Denson and Pete Taylor, who are two staples of Southern Miss baseball lore. Another bright spot in the baseball season is former Jones County Junior College Bobcat star Andrew Pierce. Pierce has had fans in awe as he came within only a few innings of setting a new record for most consecutive scoreless innings that came to an end at 26 against the Memphis Tigers. Kameron Brunty and Blake Brown have provided the pop at the dish, and on the base paths it is freshman sensation Connor Barron leading the charge. Southern Miss is set to make yet another appearance in an NCAA Regional and hopefully another miraculous trip to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series as the team did in 2009.
Women’s basketball geared up this off-season, signing several big name recruits. Women’s softball and soccer are also primed to make a good showing in the 2012-2013 season as the two teams gain more and more valuable experience and build up chemistry to match the high talent level of two teams.
The sky is the limit for Southern Miss athletics, and each team looks to soar to new heights in the upcoming season. Southern Miss also bids a fond farewell to quarterback Austin Davis, who became the leading passer in many major, categories such as touchdowns and yards, during his time at Southern Miss. Golden Eagle athletics also saw the end of Richard Giannini’s time as athletic director, as he retired after many years of dedication and service to the university. Gianni was replaced by Jeff Hammond, who is looking to have the interim tag removed and lead Southern Miss athletics to new heights as the official athletic director.
Regardless of what has happened, this was truly a year to remember in Golden Eagle athletics. Looking back, we can only now truly appreciate what the teams have accomplished. We were fortunate to witness history in many ways this year, and for those lucky enough to have been a part of this historic year, we thank you for taking us fans on a great ride. This season marked the 100th year of Southern Miss athletics, and what a century it has been. Hopefully, the next century will be just as successful.