Georgia has not played at Mississippi State since 1996, so most, if not all of the players on the team are unaware of the noisemaker of choice in Starkville – the cowbell.
For three quarters of a century the other Bulldogs’ fans have used cowbells to cheer their team on. But many of the Georgia players didn’t know much about what cowbells are, or even what they are used for. Here is a sampling of some of the Georgia players’ responses to my cowbell inquires:
“Do you use it to bring the cows home? I don’t know,” asked freshman C.J. Byrd.
“Cowbell? The ones that cows wear?” questioned kicker Brandon Coutu. “I don’t know anything about that.”
“To be honest with you, as far as I know a cowbell is a musical instrument,” said offensive lineman and rural resident Seth Watts. “It’s used in percussion. But I’ve also seen them tied around cows.”
“I don’t really know,” said defensive tackle Gerald Anderson.
“It’s like a little square bell that you tie around the cow’s neck. I guess it’s to let the farmers know where the cows are. We had horses – we never had cows,” said running back Danny Ware.
“It’s like, something they use to put on cows so that if you can’t find them you can hear them,” said offensive guard Nick Jones.
But one member of the coaching staff knows a fair amount about Mississippi State and its cowbells.
“They have always used them,” said Offensive Coordinator and former Alabama player Neil Callaway. “They are a land grant institution, so I guess that’s where it comes from. It’s always hard to win there, and their fans really get into it over there.”
The cowbell at Mississippi State is sort of like the hedges at Georgia – a unique tradition. Yet there is no mention of it in Mississippi State’s media guide, which seems like an oversight by the school.
An oversight, however, it is not.
In 2002, the SEC’s presidents voted 11-1, with the lone dissenting vote coming from Mississippi State Interim President Charles Lee, to add penalties to the rule banning noisemakers that has been on the books since 1975.
"Cowbells have been a symbol of Mississippi State spirit and pride for more than 75 years,” Lee said. The presidents voted that on the third incident involving cowbells the home team shall be penalized 15 yards.
But when the inevitable cowbell rings on Saturday night don’t expect Georgia to file an official complaint to the SEC office on Monday or even beg for a penalty flag or warning.
“It’s just the way they cheer on their team,” said Jones. “You’re not going to get any complaint from us about that.”