- Matt Colville
M. M. Roberts Stadium – Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
M. M. Roberts Stadium 118 College Dr Hattiesburg, MS 39406
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles website
Year Opened: 1932
Welcome to the Rock
The 2022 season marks a new era for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. After completing the last 27 seasons in Conference USA, the Golden Eagles are now in a new conference, the Sun Belt Conference. For a mid-major program in football, this school of 14,000 students in the pine belt of southern Mississippi has a pretty storied football history in itself.
In 105 seasons of football, the Southern Miss program has won over 70% of the 1,059 games they've played. In addition, the Golden Eagles have won 8 Conference Championships, including 5 C-USA Championships. They've played in 26 bowl games, winning 13 of them, and won two Small College National Championships when they finished undefeated in 1958 and 1959. Southern Miss has also produced over 100 players who have played in the NFL, including two Pro Football Hall of Famers, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time Brett Favre and perhaps the NFL's best punter of all time Ray Guy.
The Southern Miss football program was born in 1912 when the college was known as Mississippi Normal School, and the nickname was the Normality. The team played football games at Kamper Park, a public park near campus where the Hattiesburg Zoo is located today.
The school has gone by many names and nicknames over the 100-plus year history, including the Mississippi State Teachers College Yellow Jackets (1926-1939), Mississippi Southern Southerners (1940-1961), and Southern Miss Southerners (1962-1971) before finally settling on the Golden Eagles nickname in 1972.
Since 1932 the Golden Eagles have played on-campus at Historic M. M. Roberts Stadium, a.k.a. The Rock. Named after a Southern Miss alumnus, the stadium was completely rebuilt and dedicated to M. M. Roberts for the 1976 season. Before that, the stadium was known as Faulkner Field, named after a local businessman.
It was built with the help of the football players hauling concrete and thus is how the stadium received the nickname “The Rock”. Over the last 90 years, The Rock has become one of the more intimidating settings in college football with the Golden Eagles having a .690 winning percentage at home.
Food and Beverage 3
There are 16 concession stands open during games with four stands on each concourse – each stand is called ‘Eagle Bites’ and sells the basics and not much else. The menu includes hot dog combos ($9) and hamburger or sausage combos ($10), with each combo meal coming with a souvenir cup that normally costs $7 to buy alone, so I consider the combo meals a good deal.
You could also buy the items separately with hot dogs at $4 and hamburgers or sausage for $5. Other items sold on the menu include roasted peanuts and nachos ($4), popcorn, pretzels, and candy ($3). There are also two Southern Miss BBQ stands located on the east side (one on the upper and one on the lower level). The BBQ stand sells pulled pork and brisket sandwiches for $6.
Alcohol is sold in the stands with 16 oz. domestic beers (Miller, Coors, or Michelob) sell for $6. They also sell 16 oz. premium beers (Voodoo Ranger IPA and Gold Rush) for $8. Gold Rush is a Southern Miss exclusive beer introduced by a local Southern Prohibition Brewery and features an Eagle and the Southern Miss logo on the can. Coca-Cola is the official soft drink provider of Southern Miss athletics, and they sell souvenir cups for $7 or a 22 oz. paper cup for $4.
With Southern Miss's move to the Sun Belt Conference, expect better competition and a better atmosphere at The Rock. There is a certain buzz around the campus for the 2022 season, something that hasn't been felt on this campus in a long time. The action begins early in the day as you can find people tailgating scattered throughout campus. The alumni and older groups of fans will be tailgating on the south side of campus, while the college students and fraternities tailgate in Spirit Park located just outside the stadium. You can find many food trucks in Spirit Park, and they have a large stage where a band will put on a concert.
Two and a half hours before kickoff is perhaps the most famous game day tradition, the Eagle Walk – the football team will make a small parade around the stadium as they head into the locker room, accompanied by the famed Pride of Mississippi Marching Band and the Dixie Darlings dance team.
The football team will walk down a section on the east side of the stadium lined with banners of past Southern Miss greats, and banners of all the bowl games the Golden Eagles have played in. Another popular gameday tradition at Southern Miss is the painting of the Little Rock, which is a rock about 3 feet wide on the south side of campus. During the week leading up to games, students will paint the rock with a popular saying related to the team they are playing against that weekend. The mascot is a giant Golden Eagle named Seymour and he is a constant presence interacting with the crowd among the fans and students.
Once inside the stadium it is easy to see how the stadium gets its nickname – the Rock is a large concrete structure that rises straight into the air. The stadium is an older-style stadium with an upper and lower level separated by two concourses under the bleachers. The stadium features a two-level grandstand on the east and west sides of the stadium, with all bleacher-style seating.
For years the stadium was open behind both the north and south end zones, but in 2008 they filled in the south end zone with 3,000 additional seats on ground level, and two stories of suites with a total of 48. There is also an indoor club level in the south end zone on the third floor called the Touchdown Club; the Club is completely climate controlled and features several couches and TVs, as well as different food options and a full-service bar that are not found on the concourse. You can walk right outside to a completely covered section with comfortable chairback seats, the only seating in the stadium that is covered.
In the north end zone, they installed the football field house in 2009 and a larger video board that same year. For more premium seating there is an indoor stadium club on the east side as well called the Stadium Club. Southern Miss has three retired numbers, and they are honored with displays around the stadium – Brett Favre (#4), Ray Guy (#44), and Reggie Collier (#10) are the people who have had their numbers retired by Southern Miss.
The stadium holds sound pretty well but can look half-empty, even with the somewhat decent crowd during the 2022 season. It wouldn't look as bad if The Rock wasn't so tall and instead built a little closer to ground level; then it wouldn't look half empty. You’ll also find people scattered throughout the stadium, so there will often be entire sections with just a few people sitting in them.
The entire upper deck almost has no one sitting in the seats. It would be nice if they would just tarp off the upper deck to make it look like a much more intimate atmosphere. The east side of the stadium is where most of the fans will be sitting, with the student section taking up the southeast section of the stadium. If they aren't going to tarp off the upper deck then I recommend sitting up there for great views of the field – almost no one sits up there and you'll have the entire section to yourself.
Hattiesburg (a.k.a. The Burg) is a decent-sized city of about 50,000 people, so it has everything you could want in a city and still retains that college town feels. The Burg has a wide selection of bars and restaurants, but unlike most college towns they are not located near each other – instead they are spread out throughout the town. Within walking distance of M. M. Roberts Stadium, you'll find places like Patio 44, Brewsky's, and 4th Street Bar; if you’re looking for vintage Southern Miss memorabilia on the walls of a hole-in-the-wall then 4th Street Bar is your place, while Keg & Barrel, The Porter, and Nostalgia are popular places closer to downtown.
As a southern city, Hattiesburg has its fair share of restaurants centered on the local fare; popular spots include Crescent City Grill, Brass Hat, Midtown, Chesterfields, Ed's Burger Joint, Stricks, and Murky Waters BBQ. Also, as one of Mississippi's largest cities, there is plenty to do for all ages – for families, there's the Hattiesburg Zoo and the Pocket Museum, which is located in an alleyway downtown next to the Saenger Theatre.
The Pocket Museum is Mississippi's tiniest museum, and each month the museum changes to a different theme. If you come to a game during October make sure you check out the spooky Halloween display that is spread out throughout the alley and at the Zoo. For shopping, there are plenty of chain stores and the Turtle Creek Mall. Another popular spot worth shopping is The Lucky Rabbit downtown, a two-story vintage thrift store that has everything including all kinds of old Southern Miss memorabilia and t-shirts.
Or if you are into the outdoors there is Long Leaf Trace, a 44-mile bike trail that runs right through campus right next to the Wellness Center, while Paul B. Johnson State Park just south of Hattiesburg is an excellent place for camping.
For the 2022 season, Southern Miss is averaging about 25,000 fans per game, which ranks about third in the conference in attendance. Southern Miss has a dedicated fan base with many of these fans going through the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
Southern Miss fans take great pride in the University because unlike most schools most of them are graduates of the university – they can remember the glory days of the football program back when names like Brett Favre and Reggie Collier played here, or when the Golden Eagles played Alabama almost every year and even won a few games, back when Jeff Bower coached the program for 18 winning seasons. The fans also remember the not-so-great moments of the Southern Miss program, like the 2012 and 2013 seasons when they went a combined 1-23, including losing 23 straight games.
Hattiesburg is also a different kind of town than the other college towns in Mississippi; many graduates tend to live in Hattiesburg after graduation because of its large size. There are also a lot of grads who tend to live in the south and central Mississippi, so it's much easier for them to make it to games on weekends. The move to the Sun Belt Conference, also makes new rivalries for the Golden Eagles, as all the schools are located in the Southeast. When teams like South Alabama play expect lots of visiting fans in attendance.
The student section has also seen an increase in attendance, with almost the entire student section being full during games. During the first defensive possession after halftime they will hold up a giant banner that says “Here Comes the Nasty Bunch” – the large banner takes up the entire student section and is named after the famed Southern Miss defense in the 90s that was nicknamed the “Nasty Bunch”.
There is a reason Hattiesburg is nicknamed the 'Hub City', as it is one of the most accessible cities in the State. Conveniently located about an hour and a half from the coast, New Orleans, Jackson, and Mobile, Hattiesburg sits right in the middle of it all. You will not miss the campus as you come into Hattiesburg, as it is located on the corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street, the two busiest roads in town. The Southern Miss campus is kind of small, only one square block, so you can see The Rock from practically anywhere on campus.
The stadium is located on the north side of campus, but once on campus, it can be kind of confusing drive because many of the streets are one-way. Most of the parking on campus is reserved for pass holders, however, you will find a few free lots on the other side of 4th Street.
My favorite place to park for free for football games is at the baseball stadium, Pete Taylor Park. There are also a few businesses that charge to park located along the east side of Highway 49 across from the stadium. The Southern Miss campus is also one of the smallest D1 colleges in the country, so you should have no problem walking around on campus. The Rock itself is also easy to get around, with a wide concourse and plenty of concession stands that don't back up.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets aren't hard to come by, although if you order tickets directly off the website they will have higher prices – on the athletics website to sit in the upper deck it will cost $25, or to sit in the lower deck $40 to $50, which can be kind of steep. My recommendation would be to check secondary websites like Stubhub and Vivant Seats, where you can easily purchase tickets for $15 to $20. They also don't have anybody checking tickets, so it is possible to move around throughout the stadium if you want.
The Southern Miss campus is a nice campus to walk around before the game; the campus is very small so it is possible to walk around the whole campus in less than 45 minutes. The Southern Miss campus is a great Southern campus with all kinds of sights and sounds to experience.
Some of my favorite sights on campus include the All-American Rose Garden and the giant Eagle sculpture at the front entrance. Also, check out the old 1890s-era Roberts School House, still in its original form, or The Hub at the center of campus, where in the mid-1960s Jimmy Buffett could be seen playing his guitar here in-between classes.
But my favorite thing to do while on campus is walking down the famous Eagle Walk – the Eagle Walk is deserving of an extra all by itself. 44 former players and coaches are honored with banners hanging from the stadium under the east side. All 26 bowls the Golden Eagles have played in are honored as well, including the 1958 and 1959 Small College National Championships. The Eagle Walk is also a cool place to be before the game when the team walks by into the stadium.
Another extra because not very many college football teams can lay claim to having two of the best positional players to ever play football – Brett Favre, arguably considered one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play football during his 20-year NFL career, and Ray Guy, who played for the Oakland/LA Raiders for 14 seasons, winning 3 Super Bowls and being elected to the Pro Bowl 7 times.
Ray Guy is considered the greatest punter to ever play football and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as became the only punter ever enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ray Guy was a fixture at Southern Miss games until he sadly passed away during the 2022 football season. His legacy will forever be known at Southern Miss, as the street on the north side of the stadium is called Ray Guy Lane.