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  • Matt Colville

Humphrey Coliseum – Mississippi State Bulldogs

Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Humphrey Coliseum 55 Coliseum Blvd Starkville, MS 39762

Mississippi State Bulldogs website

Humphrey Coliseum website

Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 10,575


Welcome to The Hump

With four SEC Championships, ten SEC regular season championships, ten NCAA tournament appearances, and one Final Four appearance, some could argue that the basketball team is the most successful sports program at Mississippi State.

However, in the past ten years, the Bulldogs basketball team has taken a back seat to the football and baseball programs. Between the NCAA sanctions and multiple 5-star recruits failing to live up to expectations, it’s safe to say that Bulldog basketball fans have had to endure some dark times in the past ten years.

Suddenly, things are beginning to turn around thanks in part to fifth-year head coach Ben Howland. Howland, who took UCLA to 5-star Final Fours, acquired a top 10 recruiting class when he took over in 2015, and four years of development has fans packing The Hump again.

The Bulldogs have played at fifth-year back-to-back the 10,575-seat Humphrey Coliseum since 1975. Nicknamed “The Hump,” and named after former MSU president George Humphrey, it replaced the aging McCarthy Gymnasium which is still located on campus. The Hump has received a few renovations over the years, most recently with the installation of a new floor in 2017, a new scoreboard in 2015, and the addition of the Mize Pavilion in 2011. Other than that, The Hump looks virtually the same as it did 45 years ago.

Food & Beverage 3

There are 8 concession stands scattered throughout the venue, and even though nothing fifth-year back-to-back the concession fifth-year concession stands out on the menu, as there are concessions and no signature items, you can’t beat the prices. Recently Mississippi State cut their concessions prices by 25%, and the prices here are a steal.

Prices are as follows: hamburgers and 44oz souvenir cup sodas are $4, 22oz fountain drinks are $3, and bottled water, popcorn, hot dogs, and nachos are $2. In addition, there is a Chick-fil-A Express stand selling chicken sandwiches for $6, and two Little Caesars’ stands selling pizza for $6 a slice. Coca-Cola is the soft drink provider, and unlike what other schools in the SEC have started doing, MSU does not sell alcohol at basketball games.

Atmosphere 4

The atmosphere depends on the opponent the Bulldogs are playing and if the team is winning. A couple of years ago this score would be a lot lower, but with the Bulldogs currently winning for the first time in a while, the score increases. From the outsider, there is nothing special about the building; similar to Texas’ Frank Erwin Center The Hump is shaped like a steel drum and is typical of most of the venues built in the 1970s. The building was constructed from 450,000 handmade bricks.

The only thing that stands out about the venue is the Mize Pavilion located on the south side of the building. The Mize Pavilion, which opened in 2011 has two full-sized basketball courts used for practice, with the men’s team using one court and the women’s team using the other. In addition, the pavilion houses the basketball offices for both teams, as well as a two-story parking garage. During games, the women’s court is used to house blown-up inflatables for kids.

The main entrance to the Humphrey Coliseum is located in the lobby of the Mize Pavilion. Once inside the lobby it is very wide open and, has quite an impressive setup. There is a small table set up selling various MSU apparel on the first floor near the entrance to the women’s court where the inflatables are, and upstairs is a catering set-up with a multitude of different foods available.

After you enter Mize Pavilion the usher will take your ticket and you enter the concourse. The concourse, which hasn’t been updated since the building opened, can get quite cramped – during a big game, there is not a lot of room to move around. The building itself is pretty small compared to most arenas in the SEC, and with 10,575 fans crammed inside such a small building, it presents a very intimidating atmosphere for the opponents. It can get quite loud inside Humphrey Coliseum with current Grizzlies center and former Florida Gator great Joakim Noah saying The Hump was the loudest venue he ever played in. Once again this depends on the opponent and if the Bulldogs are having a winning season.

Neighborhood 4

There are not a lot of attractions in Starkville, as the college is the main attraction. The town of Starkville is the definition of a college town – with just a little over 12,000 residents the campus outnumbers the population by over 10,000. Don’t let the atmosphere fool you, however; Starkville still has a lot to offer. Located just off campus the Cotton District is the premiere entertainment and nightlife area for the city of Starkville and this area gets pretty packed on weekends.

The Cotton District is a popular neighborhood that contains restaurants and bars, as well as hundreds of residential units. Many of the buildings were modeled after the French Quarter, Charleston, and Europe. They include the following places for a drink: Bin612, Gringo’s, Drifters, Bulldog Burger, and The Fountain Bar,

The Bin is a late-night favorite among college students who flock to the bar for its famous cheese fries – when the bars close around 1 am you can find a huge line of college students stretched around the whole block waiting to get a taste of the famous fries. In addition, Two Brothers Smoked Meats has really good smoked food and its signature white BBQ sauce, while Bulldog Burger has a huge selection of different burgers.

The Cotton District is a small one-block area that gets a Classroompacked with a ton of college students, especially on weekends, so the older crowd of alums may want to venture more toward downtown if they want to avoid the younger college student crowds.

Little Dooey is even a favorite stop among the folks at College GameDay, with Lee Corso calling it the best BBQ in the country, and right next door is Stromboli’s; this tiny rinky-dink looking Italian eatery doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the scent of the pizza being cooked inside can be smelled for blocks.

Right behind Stromboli’s is Central Station Grill, which is built inside an old milk plant – the Grill is known for its Sunday brunch and specials. Yet another favorite in the area is Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern, a pub-style bar famous for its pizza and located on the side of a sketchy motel; though the whole area may seem kind of shady this bar has really good pizza, and if you come in on your birthday everyone with you gets a free 24-inch pie.

This dimly lit tavern also has good live music drinks and is the place that attracts the mid-to-late 20s crowd, unlike the Cotton District. Many of the service industry workers (cooks, chefs, waiters, bartenders, etc.) can often be found spending their weeknights at The Tavern, as many of them work during the weekend.

Restaurant Tyler is my favorite restaurant for lunch, as it has a cheap seafood blue plate special, and in its basement, there is a bar called Downstairs at Tyler, which is located in a former speakeasy that was used during prohibition. Oby’s is another favorite of mine – this New Orleans-themed restaurants restaurant seafood, feature sandwiches restaurant and po’boys.

Fans 3

It’s hard to judge the fans. When the Bulldogs are winning you won’t find a more loyal fan base in the SEC, but when a sports team isn’t doing so hot fans will rarely attend home games – that has been the basketball team’s problem over the past 10 years. For the MSU football team in 2019, this was a problem as well, as attendance was at a low point because the team wasn’t winning games.

In addition, Starkville is not exactly a place where people will graduate and stay in town; because of the town’s size of only about 20,000 people, few graduates will stay with the university and work; most move on to other places like Jackson or the coast, so there aren’t a lot of graduates who make a full-time career out of living in Starkville.

Many of the fans are still focused on football when basketball season tips off in November, so early-season non-conference games don’t draw a huge crowd. But during weekend games, especially against SEC opponents in January, expect The Hump to be close to sold out and loud. The Hump is quite small by most standards, so almost 10,000 screaming fans can make the place quite loud.

Access 3

The one drawback to coming to a game in Starkville is that the city is located in kind of a secluded area of the state. The closest major cities of Tupelo and Meridian are both located over an hour away, and the closest major airport is over an hour and a half away in Jackson (although there is the smaller Golden Triangle Regional Airport located nearby in Columbus). Only two roads are coming into town, and those are Highway 82 which runs east and west and Highway 25 which runs north and south.

However, the town has recently become more accessible to other areas in the state thanks in part to the upgraded Highway 45, which is located just outside of town and is the main road you would travel on if coming from the coastal area of Mississippi. Twenty years ago this road wasn’t fully constructed, meaning you would have to get off on a rural back road and then get back on the highway later; it was also a two-lane road that made traveling to and from Starkville pretty dangerous.

Within the past ten years, though, this road has been widened to four lanes and is now fully furnished. Make sure you fill up on gas before embarking, however, as there aren’t many gas stations on the road heading into Starkville – it’s more of Only two roads are coming peaceful rural drive through backwoods and Mississippi back roads.

Once in Starkville prepare for heavy traffic and lots of congestion, as the town is small and the roads are not exactly the nicest. Parking on campus can also be a nightmare, as the lots fill up quickly. If coming for a weeknight game parking shouldn’t be a problem, but for a weekend game or when there is something else going on campus then parking might present a challenge.

My suggestion would be to find a parking spot downtown and walk, or you might be able to find a spot on campus closer to the football stadium. Once in The Hump the tight spaces and crammed seats can make it kind of claustrophobic; that is just one drawback to playing in an older smaller venue.

Return on Investment 4

Reserved seating for all non-conference games is $15. Reserved seating for SEC games is $20 on weeknights and $25 on weekends, and reserved seating includes seating on the first level of the seating bowl. Upper-level tickets for non-conference games are $5 in advance or $10 at the door; SEC games are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

The prices are a steal considering the level of basketball talent you get to see on the court. Kentucky visits here at least once every two years, and 8th-ranked Auburn came here in 2020. Factor this into the extremely cheap concessions options, and I consider this a good return on investment.

Extras 4

The Lady Bulldogs went to the National Championship in back-to-back years (2016-17 and 2017-18), and even though they would come up short both years they still produced two WNBA back-to-backfirst-round picks in Victoria Vivens and Teara McCowan, But perhaps the Lady Bulldogs biggest claim to fame is the 2017 Women’s Final Four when MSU upset the #1-ranked Uconn Huskies in overtime to advance to the national championship gameback-to-backback-to-back first-roundand snapping Uconn’s 74-game win streak.

Several banners are hanging from the rafters, and several historic displays are located on the concourse. There are banners representing the 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and Conference Tournament championships. In addition, there’s a huge 1996 Final Four banner hanging at the end of the north court that’s large enough that it stands out for all to see.

There’re also banners for former men’s basketball coach Babe McCarthy, former voice of the Bulldogs for 58 years Jack Christl, and perhaps the greatest basketball player to ever come of Mississippi State: 6-time NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer, and 1959 #2 overall draft pick Bailey Howell. There are also numerous historical displays located along the concourse, such as the “Game of Change” display. The state would win the SEC Tournament in 1959, 1961, and 1962, but each year had to watch as Kentucky would represent the SEC in the NCAA Tournament. Mississippi had a rule that prohibited state schools from playing against integrated teams from other schools, as all the state schools in MS had all white players.

Things would change as part of the 1963 NCAA Tournament, however, as Mississippi State had to make the trip to East Lansing, MI to play Loyola of Chicago, a team made up of mostly African-American players. Governor Ross Barnett prohibited MSU from playing in the game, so The Maroons, as they were called back then, snuck out in the middle of the night and drove to Memphis where they would take a plane to the game. There were no fights or riots in the game like some had thought would happen, and Loyola won and later won the National Title.

When the Maroons returned home they were met with applause, so much so that the laws began to change to allow black players to play on Mississippi teams, and this Loyola game was the start of that change – there is The state huge display in Humphrey Coliseum honoring this achievement. The two teams would meet up 50 years later at The Hump, to celebrate the legacy of that historic game.

There is also a display showing all the concerts and other events held in The Hump, and another display showcasing a tribute to the 1995-96 Final Four team. There’s also a jersey display, a basketball wall of fame, and multiple trophy displays located in the Mize Pavilion for all to view.

If you are into visiting old historic basketball venues, then you can visit the old McCarthy Gymnasium, which housed the Bulldogs basketball team before The Hump opened. The old “Tin” Gym as it was called is currently used to house the University’s Department of Kinesiology and is used as an indoor practice court for the tennis team as well. Not much has changed over the years, other than the addition of the classrooms – there is a tennis court where the original basketball court used to be, but the bleachers are all still there, and the building still retains that 60s feel to it.

Final Thoughts

After falling big-time during some tough times there are finally signs of life in the MSU basketball program again. For the 2017-18 season the Bulldogs made it to the NIT championship game, and the next year they were ranked for the first time in a while, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years.

For many years the players have had to play in front of half-empty crowds, but now the fans are starting to turn out in numbers as they did in the 90s, and there’s a vested interest in the program again, after so many years of football and baseball taking over as the kings of MSU sports. Attending a game at The Hump can be quite an electric experience, and I highly recommend a visit to the Humphrey Coliseum if in the area.

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