Cowbells make Davis Wade Stadium one of the loudest and most intimidating venues in the nation. When fans leave the stadium, they often do so with blistered hands from ringing cowbells.
But understand that for the people that ring them, doing so is about more than a competitive edge. When a cowbell rings in Davis Wade Stadium, it is answered by another clanging in the distance. There is hard-earned unity and pride there.
During the early part of the 20th century, in the thick of Starkville’s dairy-producing days, Mississippi State was not known for its football program. The fans they had were “true Bulldogs,” brought together by their love of the maroon and white.
One fateful day during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels in Starkville, it’s said that a cow wandered over from a nearby creamery and grazed on the football field. State beat Ole Miss that day and the dairy cow was seen as good luck. It made sense, Mississippi State having the roots it does in agricultural learning. This was during the 1920s or 1930s — no one knows for sure, according to Sid Salter, MSU’s chief communications director — but from then on, cowbells were deemed appropriate noisemakers to cheer on the Bulldogs.
MSU’s football program didn’t change much after that, but there was a change in the fans. They had pride in their team, and a powerful tool to let everyone hear that pride. Whether met with victory or defeat, the answer was the same: clang clang.
But going into the 1970s, cowbells were banned from ever appearing in the stadium again. Other teams called them an unfair advantage. Some diehard fans continued to sneak them into games under pom-poms and jackets, but the energy was not the same.
When current MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum took office, one of his first tasks was to reason with the directors of the Southeastern Conference. They allowed fans to begin ringing again in 2010, as part of a trial run to see if they could be managed. This went on for three more years and in 2013 they were officially named a controllable sound device, and could be rung only in Davis Wade Stadium.
Cowbells are here to stay.
Ask any State fan. The cowbell must be respected. Older alums still keep their first cowbell, or have handed it down to their children. It is a tradition that will continue for many generations to come.
When fans ring their cowbells, there is an unmatched energy that radiates from one, giant Bulldog family.
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