JACKSON – It’s official: Mississippi State and Southern Miss will collide on the football field once again.
School officials announced Thursday that the schools will meet in 2014 (in Starkville) and 2015 (in Hattiesburg), with both slated as season openers.
MSU’s first-year president, Dr. Mark Keenum, called the announcement “the worst kept secret in the state of Mississippi.” Rumors began swirling earlier this week of a possible renewal of a series that’s been dormant since 1990, and reports surfaced Wednesday that the series was indeed being renewed.
That’s drawn some heated criticism from some State fans, who say MSU has nothing to gain from playing USM.
“I don’t agree with that,” MSU Athletics Director Greg Byrne said. “I think once we took a step back and looked at all the positives with it – we looked at the challenges with it, too – we thought it made sense to do this.”
The visiting teams in each game will receive a $200,000 guarantee, and the home team will keep the entire gate.
USM leads the series, 14-12-1, but MSU won the last two.
Discussions began not long after Byrne took over as AD in the summer of 2008. In his first telephone conversation with his USM counterpart, Richard Giannini, the subject was broached.
Byrne and Bulldog coach Dan Mullen discussed it on the day of Mullen’s introductory press conference in December, and talks grew “hot and heavy” over the past three to four months, Byrne said.
MSU signed its part of the contract Thursday morning.
The schools would’ve liked to have scheduled the games sooner, but 2014-15 was the earliest two-year period that could be worked out. MSU now has all its non-conference opponents locked in through 2016 and will have announcements about some of them in the coming days.
“This is a great deal for Mississippi State football as we move to the future,” Mullen said in a statement. “We want to play as many games in this region as possible so our fans have the opportunity to attend and our recruits have the opportunity to see us play.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal