Most folks I know don’t remember hating them until 2010 or so. They were just a team we beat. Losing to them was straight up shameful. Now they’re trying to scandalize us and troll us with asinine marquees and it’s just weird. T’was it always thus and we just never picked up on it? (It is hard to pick up on things from Starkville —their signal is so weak.)
The former coach of their arch rival coming here? Sure, that’s something. But if deep down enmity hath always existed between Auburn and Mississippi State, I guess we have to thank Shug.
Nov. 9, 1974. Jackson. Three bench-clearing fights. Offensive inconsistency. Cussing. Cowbells. Oh the cowbells!
Yes, Auburn won, 24-20—and he did give Mississippi State credit for “coming back and making one helluva game of it”—but Shug blamed the damned ding-dong din of the bells for making it close by twice causing Auburn to go off sides and for a fumble at the six-yard line. He was “disgusted.” He didn’t hide it.
“It’s obvious the cowbells are used when other people have the football. Everything gets pretty quiet when State has the ball.”
Auburn quarterback Phil Gargis (here’s our interview with him) had problems communicating the whole game. He’d look to the ref for help. The ref would tell him to play (at least that’s what his lips looked like they were saying).
“I told Gargis that the next time (referee James) Artley told him to get back, to not do it,” Shug said. “Take a five-yard penalty.
“I hope he (SEC Commissioner Boyd McWhorter) does something about those cowbells. I sure hope he does more than Artley did out there today. All he had to do was walk off 15 yards one time and that would have taken care of things. He knew about it beforehand and he still didn’t do anything.”
But Shug did: “I’m going to make my recommendation to the commissioner about it.”
Boyd saw the game but declined to comment on the issue after the game beyond saying that he regretted “anything that takes away from the play of the game. We will sure study anything that comes into our office.”
Shug’s complaint is what came in, and it led directly to the SEC banning artificial noisemakers in stadiums the next year (which led directly to AP stories with lines like “State fans say they feel naked without their metal clankers”).
“There’s been a lot of talk about digging a pit and burying all the bells and dedicating the mound to Shug Jordan,” a Mississippi State spokesman was quoted saying at the time, which, even if he was joking, is kind of a weird thing to say at the time.
The bell ban lasted for 36 years. In 2010, State fans were allowed to openly bring the cowbells into stadiums but only allowed to ring them after touchdowns and during timeouts. But before SEC coaches intervened, they were almost banned permanently last year when SEC athletic directors voted 10-2 to do away with the cowbells completely. Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs was one of the two who voted in favor of keeping them.
Shug probably tolled in his grave.
“The cowbells,” he said, “have no place in football.”
Originally published Sept. 6, 2012.
* Shug Jordan dug the heck out of houndstooth
* Jaime Edmondson sports Auburn shirt in Cam Newton’s Pants photos
* Apple CEO Tim Cook only writes personal email replies to Auburn fans
* Playboy in Jordan-Hare… 1994