College Football Fun: Ole Miss, Miss. St. Student Newspapers Honor Teams’ Successes

The stunningly swift, unexpected and simultaneous ascents of the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University squads to the top of the college football polls have sparked a media frenzy. Sports Illustrated has contributed a cover. The New York Times has weighed in with a feature. And pieces on ESPN and other outlets have run the gamut, all sporting headlines such as “Why Not Mississippi State?”

The standout student newspapers at both schools have also dived in with some front-page theatrics — boasting special designs, images and headers capturing the madness and significance of the teams’ (so far) undefeated runs.

For example, in the aftermath of the Ole Miss upset of the University of Alabama earlier this month, The Daily Mississippian published an issue that includes the special keepsake front page below. Fans in a frenzy on the field. The game clock at zero. Goalposts in the midst of being torn down. And an iconic headline that reads simply, “Ole Miss By Damn.”

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As Ole Miss journalism professor and student media director Patricia Thompson explains, “‘By Damn’ are the last two words in the university’s Hotty Toddy cheer. The Ole Miss football team hasn’t had a 6-0 season since 1962, which also just happens to be a year that is infamous for other reasons. We printed our Oct. 6 [issue] on higher-quality paper — inundated with requests for copies and reprints of the front page.”

Meanwhile, at Mississippi State, The Reflector has run a pair of special pages commemorating the team’s rise to its current perch atop the polls.

Under the bold, one-word, all-caps declaration “Believe,” the most recent page prominently features a quote from football coach Dan Mullen. As Mullen told CBS Sports, “I believed [we could win it all] when I got here. … An overachiever to me is someone who accomplishes more than anybody else in the world thought you could accomplish. I always viewed myself as being an overachiever. So when I came here I thought we could do this, no matter who doubted us.”

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As the paper’s adviser Frances McDavid shares on a popular college media list-serv, “The Reflector at Mississippi State normally uses a traditional front page layout, but rising to No. 1 in national football polls has been an inspiration for our staff in many ways. These two front pages have swiftly become collectibles and have been posted in places of honor in the homes of many Bulldog fans.”

As McDavid separately tells Thompson about the annual interstate match-up set for late November, “This year’s Egg Bowl between these two rivals will be epic.” So will the related papers’ front pages, no doubt.

By the way, much less epic is the NYT story headline, “The Delta Rids Itself of the Football Blues.” The problem, as more discerning readers have noted: Neither Ole Miss or Mississippi State is actually located in the Delta. Oops.

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