At Mississippi State University, one of the most unique symbols of the school’s tradition is the cowbell. Cowbells are ubiquitous at Mississippi State football games, where the collective clanging of these instruments can become deafening—so much so that, in recent years, fans have been asked to “respect the bell” and “ring responsibly.” The school even has a whole website dedicated to proper cowbell etiquette.
It appears, however, that not everyone has been minding their manners as of late. The cowbell cacophony reportedly has never been louder than it was this past Saturday, when the Mississippi State Bulldogs beat the Auburn Tigers. USA Today’s national college football reporter Dan Wolken tweeted “I’ve never heard a stadium this loud,” and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports called it “an ear-splitting slice of hell for the visiting team.”
Hear for yourself in this Vine posted by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s Michael Bonner:
While some folks may enjoy the camaraderie of such a riotous display of school spirit, Mississippi State’s athletic director Scott Stricklin is less than enthused. Prior to the game, he posted a note on the school’s athletic website reprimanding the fans who ignore the rules on cowbell etiquette. But it seems his critique may have gone unnoticed at Saturday’s game.
Stricklin isn’t the only one who’s concerned about all that cowbell. Auburn football players reportedly prepped for the potentially distracting cowbell chorus by attempting to replicate the noise during practice.
“It’s crazy,” said Auburn receiver Sammie Coates. “I hate them bells. Their fans are into it, but we’ve just got to block it out and play our ball.”
Why cowbells, you ask? According to Mississippi State’s alumni page, the precise origin of the tradition is unclear, but the best records suggest that cowbells started popping up at games in the late 1930s and early 1940s. One of the most popular legends holds that during a home football game between Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, a jersey cow wandered onto the field. After Mississippi State won the game, students regarded the cow as a good luck charm and started bringing a cow to football games for a while, until they eventually started bringing the infinitely more portable cowbells instead.
In the early 1960s, two Mississippi State professors welded handles onto the cowbells so students could ring them more easily, and by 1964, the school bookstore began selling these long-handled versions, with a percentage of the profits going to student organizations. Today there are many styles available, but “experts insist the best and loudest results are produced by a classic long-handled, bicycle-grip bell made of thinner and tightly-welded shells.”
Though opposing teams undoubtedly share Scott Stricklin’s wish for less cowbell, it seems unlikely that anything will silence the Bulldogs’ school spirit . . .
. . . and they certainly aren't the first ones to call for more cowbell!