Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis covered a wide range of topics during his address at an Eagle Club luncheon on Wednesday in Gulfport, but there was one topic that he seemed to be most passionate about - reinforcing the athletic department's brand.
Southern Miss has been typically perceived as a tough school that punches above its weight. McGillis wants to get back to that way of thinking and find ways to make sure that perception holds true across the nation.
"When I was sitting at Boise, I was thinking about it more than I had in recent weeks," McGillis said. "I've been at different schools around the country. I've been in (Conference USA) with Houston. In our industry, there's not that many programs around the country that have a brand, meaning something that you are identified by. Everybody knows it. They can describe Southern Miss to you. They can describe Michigan or Notre Dame to you.
"To me, Southern Miss has had a brand. When we talk about the logo and what we call ourselves, I think we need to pay a lot of attention to it. No one in America recognizes this university as USM except for some graduates and people in our community. So we don't need to be calling it USM when we're on ESPN. We're Southern Miss. There's a brand with Southern Miss. It's hard-nosed, tough, black apparel, an edge. It's a very difficult place to play. All those things you think about, we've probably drifted a little bit from that in my opinion. That's how precious a brand can be. In a short period of time, it can be affected."
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McGillis pounded his fist against the palm of his hand as he wrapped up his comments, saying that he plans to actively move back to the traditional Southern Miss brand.
"I want us quickly through administrative decisions and success on the field to get back to being Southern Miss and pounding our chest about Southern Miss," McGillis said. "That's where I'm coming from. I hope it's consistent to what you want."
Through uniform changes, lack of success on the football field and confusion over the school's logo, Southern Miss has faced a minor identity crisis in recent years.
Southern Miss has moved away from the traditional black helmets and uniforms that made it so identifiable on TV.
The Golden Eagles closed out the 2012 season wearing throw-back gold helmets and have worn gold helmets over the last two games.
In one writer's opinion, this is a mistake. I know emulating Oregon's constant uniform changes has been a popular fad, but you don't see Alabama changing helmets and uniform colors.
McGillis is right in that Southern Miss has strayed from its hard-nosed perception and there are some small steps, such as uniforms, that can get the program back on track in that area.