In my experience, travel can lead to anxiety resulting from the unknown. As I traveled across the country in support of our football team over the past month as a new president of The University of Southern Mississippi, I did not know what to expect from Lincoln, Fayetteville, or Boise.
Lincoln set the tone with welcome words and warm hospitality to all of us. Fayetteville followed. And the city of Boise did not disappoint.
No matter where we went, whether we were checking into our hotel, eating dinner the night before the game, or dropping into local businesses, we were met with kind greetings and well wishes from local residents, business owners, and the opposing team’s fans. These folks did not know me as the president of the university but offered genuine hospitality to each of us equally. And they had an effect—we felt welcome and comfortable in their community.
Despite being on the road, my experience in each of these communities was not negative. In fact, I greatly value my interactions with the people we met, and I look forward to my next opportunity to visit again.
As you know, I am still new to Hattiesburg, and I have found our city to be warm, welcoming, and inviting to newcomers and visitors alike. I am not new to intense competition, however, and I am aware that misdirected enthusiasm can sometimes lead to behavior that contradicts who we are during other times of the year. As our Golden Eagles prepare to host our first home game in more than a month, I am hopeful that our community will continue to reciprocate the hospitality our team and our fans experienced on the road for everyone who travels here to enjoy the game this weekend. I encourage each of you, as residents of Hattiesburg, citizens of surrounding counties, and ambassadors of Southern Miss, to take advantage of this opportunity to welcome people who may have never visited our area so that they, too, will return home with nothing but good things to say about us.
I ask that you see our visitors not as foes or opponents, but as neighbors and people who also love their university and who have taken time out of their schedule to support their team. Tell them you appreciate them making the trip to Hattiesburg. Help them feel at ease exploring our local shops and restaurants so that they may support our local economy. When visitors spend money in our area, we all benefit, and if you treat people well, they will linger here. Make sure they have a pleasant experience and that they look forward to their return to our city.
Our Golden Eagles have played one of the toughest September schedules in the country. We have traveled hundreds of miles to face competitive teams on their home turf. And we have suffered heartbreaking losses. But, as Coach Monken says, we are going to win. It is only a matter of time.
I thank you for your support of Southern Miss and Golden Eagle athletics and look forward to a good game on Saturday.
Southern Miss to the Top!