- Matt Colville
Reed Green Coliseum – Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Reed Green Coliseum M.K. Turk Circle Hattiesburg, MS 39406
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles website
Year Opened: 1965
In the Hub City of Hattiesburg lies the University of Southern Mississippi. The school opened in 1910 as the Mississippi Normal College and has gone by several nicknames, such as the State Teachers College and Mississippi Southern College, before finally settling on its current name in 1962.
The men’s basketball team has experienced great success on the hardwood since their first season in 1912-13, including appearing in the NAIA National Tournament four times in the 1950s and appearing in three NCAA Tournaments (1990, 1991, 2012).
As one of the founding members of Conference USA the Golden Eagles have one C-USA Championship. But perhaps the Golden Eagles experienced their most success when they were members of the Metro Conference from 1982-1995, with their biggest feat winning the 1987 NIT Championship. The Golden Eagles have also had five former players appear in the NBA, including first round picks Randolph Keys and Clarence Weatherspoon, as well as former ABA All-Star Wendell Ladner. The 2021-22 season will be the final season Southern Miss competes in C-USA as they will move to the Sun Belt Conference for all sports beginning in 2022.
Since 1965 the Golden Eagles have competed on campus at Reed Green Coliseum. The building is named after long-time Southern Miss Athletic Director and three-sport coach Reed Green, but the arena is known by Golden Eagle faithful as ‘The Yurt’. It is small, yet all the seats are close to the action, and there is not a bad view from anywhere in the building.
Food & Beverage 3
The Green House has two permanent concession stands, both located on the same side at the north entrance. The aptly named Eagles Bites stand features reasonable prices but a small menu. Hamburgers, sausage dogs ($5 each), hot dogs, nachos, boiled peanuts ($4 each), and candy ($3) are your options. You can also order a hot dog, hamburger, or sausage combo that comes with a Southern Miss souvenir cup for $10. For beverages, Coca-Cola is the official provider with 22 oz drinks costing $4, or you can get the souvenir cup for $5.
The Yurt also has a side stand located off in a corridor on the east side of the building called Black and Gold which sells pulled pork or brisket sandwiches for $5 and popcorn for $3, as well as other items found at the Eagle Bites stand. Alcohol is available at all three stands with 16 oz cans selling for $5 for domestic (Miller Coors and Michelob Ultra) and $7 for premium. Starting in 2021 Southern Miss partnered with the local Southern Prohibition Brewery to introduce the new Gold Rush beer – this beer is available for $8 and features a black and gold can with the Southern Miss logo, and when shown under the light you can see a hologram of the football stadium.
I was wondering how the coliseum got its nickname The Yurt and I had no idea what a yurt was or what it means. After looking it up I found it is a Turkish word meaning tent-like cover, and as it turns out the first thing you notice upon entering Reed Green Coliseum from the outside is its large dome-shaped roof. In addition, they recently redid the lighting system so the roof of the building stands out instantly, so that explains the nickname. The coliseum goes by several other nicknames as well, such as Green House and NITChampsburg, honoring the 1987 NIT Champions.
Upon entering the arena you’ll see that all the seats are built below ground level – all 8,095 seats are located on one level so there is not a bad view from anywhere in the building. You enter along the concourse and walk down to your seat. The main entrance is on the north side of Reed Green Coliseum, but you can enter the building from wherever as there are doors on all sides of the building with ushers present. The arena has one wraparound concourse with views of the court from everywhere you walk except for the concessions area. The seating bowl features about 25 rows of seats; over half the seats are wooden bench seating, while the black and gold chair back seats are located on the north side of the facility in five black and gold alternating sections.
The Golden Eagles have only made three NCAA Tournament appearances, not winning any, but you wouldn’t be able to tell it here. Just walking around Reed Green Coliseum you can tell the Athletic Department takes great pride in the history of the men’s and women’s programs. Along the concourse is a trophy case with trophies dating back to the Metro Conference days, and both the men’s and women’s teams have banners that wrap all around the ceiling of the building. The main one that stands out is the 1987 NIT Champions banner on the south side of the arena.
The Yurt also recently installed two video boards in the end courts and they take advantage of this by frequently playing videos and replays on the video boards. The court faces east and west with a small student section located on the west end court, though only about 10 students were sitting in that section the last time I visited. The court is also illuminated well, with the state of Mississippi painted at center court and the Golden Eagles logo located where Hattiesburg is in relation to the rest of the state.
Hattiesburg (aka The Burg) is a decent-sized city of about 50,000 so it has everything you would want while still retaining that college town feel with a mix of local shops and restaurants. The Burg has a wide selection of bars and restaurants, but unlike a lot of college towns they are not located near each other – instead, they are spread out all over town. For nightlife in The Burg, closer to campus are the popular spots Mahogany, Brass Hat, and 4th Street Bar, while Keg & Barrell, Porter, and Nostalgia Lounge are favorites located closer to downtown.
For live music check out Brewsky’s right next to campus – this popular place stays open late and features local and sometimes big-name acts. The scene here may be a little too rowdy for some, as the last time I was there way too many college students were there, so if that is not your scene you may want to skip it and go up the road to the country-themed bar Ropers instead. As a Southern city, Hattiesburg has its fair share of restaurants centered on the local fare; popular spots include Crescent City Grill, Patio 44, Midtowner, Ed’s Burger Joint, and the Drew Brees owned Walk-On’s.
As one of the largest cities in Mississippi Hattiesburg has plenty of attractions for people of all ages. For families there is the Hattiesburg Zoo, for shopping there is the Turtle Creek Mall, and if you are into the outdoors the popular Longleaf Trace runs right through campus and makes for a great bike ride. Paul B. Johnson State Park is nearby as well, and there are plenty of camping and hiking trails to experience southern Mississippi at its very best. For hotels there are plenty of all price ranges right off Highway 49 near campus; there is also lodging at the three main interstate exits along I-55.
During the most recent season, the Golden Eagles are averaging about 3,200 fans a game, which isn’t bad considering that Southern Miss isn’t exactly known as a basketball school. Golden Eagle faithful have great pride in their school with many fans wearing black and gold attire, or shirts that say SMTTT (Southern Miss To The Top), the school’s official slogan.
The most recent game I was at had 3,100 fans in attendance, and that game took place on a Sunday on a day when south Mississippi experienced a rare cold, sleeting day. Many of the fans seemed relaxed but were still into the game as well – at that game the Golden Eagles took a very good Louisiana Tech team down to the wire, so during the last 5 minutes every fan was standing up and was into the game.
The Golden Eagles also do a good job keeping fans engaged with many contests and giveaways during timeouts, and during halftime, the staff has a lot of promotions on the court where they give away gift cards. They also have free throw contests, three-point contests, and a putting game where you can sign up to win prizes. Seymour, the Golden Eagle mascot, is there in full force as well, interacting with fans and kids.
In the Summer of 2022, the Southern Miss program will join the Sun Belt Conference, which is historically a better basketball conference than C-USA. With the schools now being located closer together, expect newer rivalries to form and a lot more visiting fans to attend games at The Yurt.
Hattiesburg may be one of the more accessible towns in the state. Nicknamed the Hub City, it used to be a prominent railroad hub back in the day. Conveniently located less than an hour and a half from the Coast, New Orleans, Mobile, Jackson, and Meridian, The Burg sits right in the middle of it all. This proximity makes a weekend game very doable for the many alumni who live along the coast and in Jackson.
You will not miss the campus when coming into town, as the campus is located right on the corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street, the two main roads through the city. Interstate 55 runs to Hardy Street on the west side of town, so you could use this exit as well, but traffic might be backed up on Hardy Street.
Reed Green Coliseum is on the back side of campus on the 4th Street entrance. There is plenty of parking right next to the venue, but this is reserved for season ticket holders and people who had the $20 tickets – this is a bummer since for baseball games across the street you are able to pull right up next to the ballpark for games. The bad thing about such a small campus is the limited parking on campus and the risk of parking in a tow zone.
However, there are two free lots you can park and walk to the venue from; the Pride Field lot on the other side of the volleyball gym has plenty of parking, and the Thad Cochran Center closer to the football stadium has plenty of free parking as well. Once inside the building, there is plenty of room to move around, and you can leave the venue and come back again as the no re-entry rule is not enforced.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets for a Golden Eagles basketball game can be found for $10 in the wooden seat section and $20 in the black and gold chair back seats. The atmosphere is laid back here for most games, though, so it is possible to move around and sit wherever you want. I consider a trip to the Green House a great experience and one I recommend – it is a very cozy and intimate place to play without a bad view anywhere, so wherever you sit you are going to get great views of the court.
One extra for being able to see the program’s most decorated player in person if you come to a game here now, as Clarence Weatherspoon has been an Assistant Coach for the Golden Eagles since 2016. Spoon played at Southern Miss from 1988-1992 and was a 3-time Metro Conference Player of the Year, and still holds many Southern Miss records. He also had the Golden Eagles ranked in the Top 25 in 1991 and also led them to the NCAA Tournament.
Spoon was 9th overall in the 1992 NBA Draft and scored over 10,000 points during 15 NBA seasons, playing for various teams including the Sixers, Knicks, and Rockets. He is perhaps best known for competing in the 1993 NBA Dunk Contest, where he finished second. Weatherspoon had his #35 jersey retired during his final home game at Southern Miss, and now has a banner hanging on the east side of the arena. He would also be inducted into the Southern Miss Athletic Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Another extra for the area outside the Coliseum being named NITChampsburg; there is a small gathering place with a plaque signifying their 1987 NIT Championship. There is also an intramural field as well as a few disc golf baskets located near this area, which is located on the west side of the coliseum.
Reed Green Coliseum is also the largest indoor multi-purpose venue in Hattiesburg, so it has played host to some top name acts such as Willie Nelson, Heart, Jimmy Buffett, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, the Doobie Brothers, and WWE, all of whom have visited The Yurt over the years.
The Southern Miss campus is also a nice campus to walk around before the game – the campus is very small so it is easily possible to walk around the whole campus in less than 45 minutes. The Southern Miss campus is a beautiful campus with all kinds of sights and sounds to experience. Some of my favorite sights on campus include the All-American rose garden and the giant eagle sculpture at the front entrance right next to the giant Lucas Administration Building and fountain.
The old 1890s-era Roberts School House still sits in its original form on campus, and the Hub at the center of campus is where in the mid 1960s Jimmy Buffett could be seen playing his guitar here in between classes. But my favorite thing to do while on campus is walking down the famous Eagle Walk next to the football stadium and viewing all the great names that have come through the football program, with names like Ray Guy and Brett Favre standing out.
The Southern Miss basketball program may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about college basketball in the State of Mississippi. With a program that has only made three Tournament appearances the Golden Eagles are often a forgotten program, and often take a back seat behind the Southern Miss baseball and football programs in terms of fan support, even in Hattiesburg.
However, with its ample access, laid back atmosphere, great views, relaxed ushers, and cheap ticket prices, coming to a Southern Miss basketball game makes for a great experience and one I highly recommend for all basketball fans in Mississippi. After all, the Golden Eagles do have an NIT Championship in their resume, and that’s something its counterparts up the road in Starkville and Oxford have yet to accomplish. Southern Mississippi to the Top !!!!
Special thanks to Eagle Club member and Southern Miss grad Jon Patrick Clancy for assisting me with the article.