Bulldogs, USM will meet in 2014, ’15|College football

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 25, 2009

JACKSON — On all fronts, the renewal of the Southern Miss and Mississippi State rivalry is a win-win scenario.

The schools on Thursday signed a two-year deal for a home-and-home football series in 2014 and 2015. Southern Miss will visit Starkville on Aug. 30, 2014, while Mississippi State will return the favor on Sept. 5, 2015 in Hattiesburg.

According to the contract, the home school will take the gate and the visiting team will receive a $200,000 guarantee.

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It’s easy to see why the two schools found a way to get a deal done.

Fan interest? According to all involved, fans of both schools are already talking about it.

“What a great way to kick off the college football season in the state of Mississippi,” MSU president Mark Keenum said. “These games will be a wonderful beginning to the year and something our fans and alumni and every citizen across the state can get excited about during the summer.”

There’s also the financial boost both schools will receive, both in big gates and a boost to season ticket sales.

Since the visiting school is paid a guarantee for a game, both schools will keep the funds in a tough economy. And it cuts down on travel, a big expense in moving a football team, band and all of their equipment. Only an easy 190-mile bus ride separates Hattiesburg and Starkville.

“Scheduling regionally helps from a recruiting standpoint where you’re going to be recruiting and that for us is in the state of Mississippi,” Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said. “Secondly, from a cost perspective, it’s getting very expensive to do long-distance trips.”

That’s also not taking into account the boosts for both Starkville and Hattiesburg.

“Talk about a stimulus package for the state, this is it,” Southern Miss president Dr. Martha Saunders said. “I believe that a renewal of an in-state rivalry with the Bulldogs is a win-win for everyone and long overdue in a state that loves its football.”

It will be the first time since 1990 that the two schools have met on the gridiron. State and USM played from 1964 to 1990, with the only breaks being in 1971 and ’74.

“I get e-mails all of the time saying that we should play such and such school,” Byrne said. “The assumption is that the school wants to play you as well, which isn’t always the case.”

The scheduling marked a major victory for USM athletic director Richard Giannini, who has lured several marquee opponents to Hattiesburg. Nebraska, California, Virginia and North Carolina State have all made the trek since 2003.

As for a possible series with Ole Miss, Giannini is open to the possibility.

“I’ve talked to Pete (Boone, Ole Miss athletic director) like the way I’ve talked to Greg (Byrne),” Giannini said. “I’ve had an opportunity to bring it up. We’ll see. You never know.”


Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@vicksburgpost.com