STARKVILLE, Miss. — Welcome to Cowbell Country.
When BYU visits Mississippi State Saturday, there will be a bucolic-themed soundtrack at Davis Wade Stadium.
That would be the clanging of cowbells. Thousands of them.
These cowbells, which can be purchased at Amazon.com, are maroon and white and have bicycle-grip handles.
And Bulldog fans love ringing them throughout the game.
“We’re going into a hostile environment with a lot of cowbells and stuff,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake.
Cowbells are a longstanding tradition at Mississippi State.
The exact origin of the cowbell is unclear, but according to the school, a popular legend is that between the late 1930s and early 1940s, a jersey cow wandered onto the field during a game between MSU and archrival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs won handily and Mississippi State fans believed the appearance of the cow was a sign and began bringing a cow to games.
Eventually, instead of a cow, they just started bringing cowbells instead.
By the 1950s, cowbells were common at MSU games and they became a fixture in the 1960s when two professors convinced students to weld handles to the bells.
These days, a wide variety of cowbells can be found all over Starkville, on campus, in homes and at businesses.
The Southeastern Conference passed a rule against artificial noisemakers in 1974, making it illegal to ring cowbells during games. MSU fans responded by using creative means to circumvent the ban until 2010.
That’s when the SEC reached a compromise, allowing cowbells with certain restrictions.
Meanwhile, over the years Starkville has been dubbed “Stark Vegas” around the SEC — and especially in Starkville.
It began as an insult, actually. As the story goes, visiting fans would sarcastically refer to Starkville as Stark Vegas because of its rural setting, small population and lack of culture and social life.
The name is believed to have originated about 30 years ago, according to the New York Times. Now, the Stark Vegas nickname has been embraced and celebrated by Starkville and Mississippi State fans.
When MSU signed a five-year contract with Adidas in 2009, executives of the shoe and apparel company used Stark Vegas in its marketing campaigns. In 2014, Adidas created “Stark Vegas” shoes for Mississippi State players.