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The 18th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on November 14, 2007


Mississippi State Bulldogs

Location: Starkville, Mississippi

Nickname: Bulldogs

Reason For Nickname: Back when Mississippi State was known as Mississippi A&M, the school’s football team posted a big win over arch-rival Ole Miss in 1905. According to the student newspaper, a coffin was secured and placed on top of it a bulldog pup dressed in the school’s colors. It would not be until 1961 when the school decided to offically change the nickname from “Maroons” to “Bulldogs” after Mississippi State College became Mississippi State University.

Colors: Maroon and White 

Conference: Southeastern Conference

Arena: Humphrey Coliseum (built 1975, capacity 10,500)

Cowbells of Excellence: Mississippi State’s first basketball team was fielded in 1908-09 under the direction of T.H. Werner, who helped the Bulldogs to five straight wins to open up their first season of competition. In 1912, Mississippi State would win the first of their four Southern Conference Championships under the direction of E.C. Hayes and cap off an undefeated season. Charter members of the SEC when it was founded in 1933, the Bulldogs made an immediate impact on the new league by making it to the finals of the first SEC Conference Tournament, their last appearance in the finals until 1996.

Conference Championships: In 100 years of basketball, Mississippi State has been champions of both the Southern Conference and the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs were crowned Southern Conference champions in 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1916, all of which came under E.C. Hayes’ tutelage. Along with Southern Conference championships by Mississippi State, they have also been crowned champions of the SEC with titles coming in 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1991, and 2004 while winning the SEC Tournament in 1996 and again in 2002 to go along with several SEC-West Divisional titles.

Postseason Appearances: Over the last five decades, the Bulldogs have been frequent participants in postseason play but, in the annals of history, the Bulldogs’ first trip to the NCAA Tournament is probably one of the most unique sport stories in the civil rights era. After winning the 1963 SEC Championship under coach Babe McCarthy, the Bulldogs were invited to the NCAA Tournament but, in accordance with the segregation rules of the day, then-Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett would not allow the Bulldogs to play in the tournament because of the prospect of facing intergrated teams. It took a temporary restraining order to allow the Bulldogs to play in the 1963 NCAA Tournament.

Outside that appearance, the Bulldogs have made it to the NCAA Tournament in 1991, 1995, 1996, when they went to the Final Four, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. They’ve also been a part of the NIT in 1974, 1990, 1999, 2001, and 2007.

Coaching Legacy: Mississippi State has been home to some of the coaching greats in Southern basketball. Babe McCarthy led the Bulldogs to four conference championships in the 1950’s and 60’s as well as the first postseason appearance in school history. In the 90’s, Mississippi State graduate Richard Williams returned the Bulldogs to glory by, in 1991, capturing the school’s first outright Conference Championship since 1963 to go along with trips to the “Sweet 16” in 1995 and the Final Four in 1996. Currently, he is the winningest coach in the history of Mississippi State basketball and could be topped by current coach, and former assistant, Rick Stansbury, who’s led the Bulldogs to seven postseason appearances in his tenure at Mississippi State.

Big Man On Campus: Mississippi State’s most famous player is Basketball Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, who led the Bulldogs to a 61-14 record during his three years at State. He would later parlay that success into a modest 12-year career in the NBA and would be elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997, the first player from Mississippi to be elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Other standouts include Jeff Malone, Tang Hamilton, Lawrence Roberts, Erik Dampier, and Bart Hyche.

Rivalries: Mississippi State’s biggest rival on the hardwood, as well as in all other sports, is Ole Miss. Although the Bulldogs have had more success on the hardwood than the Rebels in their history, the games between the two schools have, for the most part been, interesting on both sides. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 132-103. But, according to most experts, the big rival for the Bulldogs are the Alabama Crimson Tide, another program that has had modest success over the last ten years in basketball.

Did You Know?: Humphrey Coliseum is the largest on-campus indoor arena in the state of Mississippi and it was named in honor of George Humphrey, who served as president of the school from 1934 to 1945.


2 Responses to “The 18th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Mississippi State Bulldogs”

  1. carey stroud said

    one of mississippi state Greatest Basketball player that played in 1959 to1962 Died today march21 His name was WD RED stroud, who played for the BABE

  2. chester ashley said

    I met Red in 1972 while attending Williams Blvd Baptist Church in Kenner, La. Red was coaching at John Curtis Christian School. We played together in the Baptist church league and won the state championship in the early 70’s. As I read elsewhere, Red was the best “pure shooter” that I have ever seen. He was a “great” basketball player and an even better person. I know he will be missed by his family and friends.

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