The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The history of Mississippi State’s cowbell

Ivy Rose Ball

Mississippi State University’s cowbell is the long-standing auditory symbol of our athletics. From the massive cowbell seen around campus to the iconic ring at the football games, it is natural to question how they ended up being used as much as they are today.

Legend has it that a wandering Jersey cow became a good luck charm in the mid-20th century after strolling onto the field during an ultimately victorious home football game against Ole Miss. The students were then motivated to bring the cow to every game for good luck, but that was quickly shut down. They then turned to the use of the cowbell.

The iconic cowbell, synonymous with MSU athletics, made its debut around the 1930s and early 1940s. However, its rise to popularity occurred when two professors introduced an innovation that transformed the cowbells into the beloved symbols they are today.

In the 1960s, Earl W. Terrell and Ralph L. Reeves began welding handles onto the bells, making them easier for students to carry and ring.  The university bookstore took this idea and ran with it, marketing the cowbell now widely used by MSU students and alumni.

Alumnus Robert Forbes holds his original Mississippi State Cowbell. (Ivy Rose Ball)

Nearly ten years after the dramatic rise in popularity, in 1974, the SEC voted 9-1 to ban all artificial noisemakers. This would end the iconic sound until 2010 when the SEC revisited the rule under the pleas of previous athletic director Scott Stricklin and Mississippi State University President Mark Kennum. The new ruling allowed the unique tradition to return to Mississippi State home games and made Mississippi State the only school out of 134 Division I schools allowed to bring artificial noisemakers at any home game. This now makes Davis Wade Stadium consistently one the loudest stadiums in the nation clocking in at about 100 decibels per game. Having the cowbells comes with a stipulation , though. You must ring responsibly. This means that you can ring all you want to cheer on the Bulldogs, but you must not disrupt the other team.

The cowbell, a true cornerstone of our culture, can now be heard at just about every Mississippi State event. To fully embrace the Mississippi State experience, fans without cowbells should consider purchasing one. However, tradition says that the fan must not purchase their first cowbell or bad luck will come to them. It must be gifted. While this is just a rumor spread around by Mississippi State fans, I would not test the waters.

For any new fan, the next opportunity to use and hear the cowbell will be on August 31 at Davis Wade Stadium where the Mississippi State Bulldogs will take on the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. ­

About the Contributor
Noah McCord
Noah McCord, Sports Editor
Noah McCord is a sophomore aerospace engineering major. He currently serves as the Sports Editor. [email protected]
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Reflector

Your donation will support the student journalists of Mississippi State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Reflector

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *