#TBT: How the Golden Eagles got their name
Forty-six years ago, the Student Printz covered a different kind of election. The paper published weekly updates similar to the 2016 presidential election polls. Students did not vote for the new face of the U.S. presidency but the new face of The University of Southern Mississippi.
After its foundation in March 1910, the first USM athletes were labeled Tigers, or Normalites and continued to change over the next 60 years. None of the mascots stuck. In 1924, the USM altered the mascot again to the Yellow Jackets. This title held for about 15 years but failed along with its predecessors.
A perfect opportunity to revitalize the face the school arose in 1940 when it was renamed Mississippi Southern College. The student body voted the team names be changed to the Confederates. The short- lived title lasted less than a year. Confederates were booted and Southerners were in.
Second only to the Golden Eagle name students proudly identify with today, the Southerners had the longest standing team name to date. Ten years later, the nature of this title was exposed when officials approved General Nat as the official mascot for the Southerners.
The mascot resembled General Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Civil War. This cavalry leader became the war’s most feared commander for his raiding style and refusal to surrender. The mascot represented the college for the next ten years.
In 1971, athletics abruptly changed mascots. Instead of cheering for the Southerners, fans would now be cheering for the Miners, but not for long. Six mascots in sixty years left the campus without an identifiable name or face. This is when the student body took over.
In 1972, the Student Printz started regular coverage on the election to choose a mascot. Editors promised to feature all the options on the ballot before voting commenced in mid-October of that year. The first suggested name was the Golden Eagles, but this is not the happy ending — yet. Students considered 400 suggestions, but only a few made it to the ballot: Raiders, Timber Wolves, War Lords and the tried-and-true Southerners.
On Sept. 21, 1972, an Editors Note was published on the front page of the Printz.
“Among the five names on the ballot is Golden Eagles,” the Note said. “Suggested by several alumni, students and USM friends, this nickname has strong support because of the eagle’s physical characteristics . A member of the falcon family, the eagle is noted for its strength, size, graceful figure, keenness of vision and powers of flight.”
Throughout the next few weeks, the possibilities of other names were discussed in the paper. When October rolled around, students began to pour into the commons to vote. Executive members of the Alumni Association, faculty and staff also voted for their favorite mascot name.
After six months of campaigning and 60 years of uncertainty, the university still had no answer. The Southerners and the Golden Eagles scored so closely a runoff election would determine the winner. The results were announced at the beginning of a Saturday football game in November. The rest is history.