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Released August 12, 2003

DIEHARD SOUTHERN MISS FOOTBALL FAN
WANTS GOLDEN EAGLE VICTORY FOR BIRTHDAY

HATTIESBURG -Anyone who knows longtime, diehard Southern Miss football fan Dolly Loyd doesn't have to ask what she wants from the Golden Eagles on her birthday, which just happens to fall on Sept. 13. That's the day of the Eagles' home opener against Conference USA rival University of Memphis.

A victory over the Tigers as she and her friends cheer from the stands will make the perfect gift - one wrapped in black and gold.

Every Southern Miss victory for the past 42 years has been a gift of sorts for Loyd, who has been a tireless and vocal supporter of the football team since arriving on campus as an undergraduate in 1961.

Now Loyd, an economics instructor at Southern Miss and a 22-year season ticket holder, looks at Golden Eagles football with a sense of having been witness to something special over the years she's followed the team.

"I'm so proud of them, and what they have accomplished," Loyd said. "The bowl games they've gone to, and all the times they've been on TV. I always get a little bit choked up at the beginning of the game, when they play the National Anthem, and our alma mater song.

"I'm really proud of Southern Miss and what we've done."

During the football season, Loyd doesn't limit her support of the team to game day.

"I usually have some athletes in my class," Loyd said. "I've had anywhere from one to two football players in my class from like six to eight. One semester, it seems like I had the whole defense in my class.

"I really try to get my students pumped up on Fridays, telling them not to forget to go to the football game this weekend. Then on Mondays, if the guys on the team did really well, I tell them about it, and if we didn't do really well, I say we're going to get them next time. I try to encourage them."

The activities surrounding Southern Miss home football games begin on Fridays for Loyd, as she dresses in black and gold to begin showing her support for the team. Then on Saturdays, she and a group of friends who work at the university get together and make their way to the campus to tailgate before kick-off.

"We have a tent," Loyd said. "We all bring food, people come by and chat, and we watch as the band does their practicing."

Once the game begins, Loyd can be found sitting in M.M. Roberts stadium with her friends, carefully following the action on the field.

"I've got my pom-poms and I'm into the game," Loyd said. "I'm very vocal. I watch all of the plays. Also, because many times I have students who are in my class playing, I'm real conscious of when they are on the field so that in class I can make a comment."

When Loyd first began attending Southern Miss football games in the early 1960s, one of the players she cheered on was her cousin, quarterback Vic Purvis, who led the team's on-field charge back before Southern Miss was known as the Golden Eagles.

Loyd said that among her most vivid memories of attending games during that era are of General Nat, the mascot at the time, and the Dixie Darlings, who marched onto the field to "Dixie."

The mascot wasn't the only thing different in those days. Southern Miss fans' mode of dress at games has changed quite a bit over the years as well, Loyd said.

"In the '60s, when you went to a football game, young women wore heels and young men wore coats and ties, and we sat up there and sweated.

"Now, I think it's so exciting to look up in the stands and see all that gold. I know that's got to be great for the football players too. When they look up in the stands and see all that gold, it's got to be such a motivator."

There was a time when attending Southern Miss football games was impossible for Loyd. This was after she graduated in 1965, and went on to live in several far-flung locations, including Honolulu, Hawaii.

But even during this period, Loyd's loyalty and interest in Southern Miss football and other university athletics never wavered, even though keeping up was tough in the days before ESPN and the Internet.

"Sometimes it was difficult for me to get the scores of the games I needed to keep up," Loyd said.
Loyd came back to Southern Miss in 1977 to go to grad school and get her MBA. She began teaching here in 1979 and since her return, she has been a devoted attendee of Southern Miss football contests.

"I will sit in the rain and watch them play, and I will sit in the heat," Loyd said, adding that for her it is a matter of "absolute pride."

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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