Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Robinson-Hale Stadium S Capitol St Clinton, MS 39056
Year Opened: 1985
The Choctaws of Clinton, Mississippi
Situated about 15 minutes west of Jackson, Mississippi is the nice, quaint, picturesque town of Clinton, home of the Mississippi College Choctaws. MC, as locals call it, opened its doors in 1826 and is Mississippi’s oldest college, along with being the second-oldest Baptist affiliated college in the U.S. The Choctaws first fielded a football team in 1907, and up until the 1930s regularly scheduled matchups against the likes of Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU. Since 1972 Mississippi College has been a member of Gulf South Conference (GSC) of NCAA Division II; the Choctaws have won one D2 National title (1989) and four conference titles. GSC has become a football rich conference in recent years with member schools Delta State, Valdosta State, West Alabama, West Florida, and West Georgia constantly being ranked in the D2 football polls.
On the west side of campus right off Interstate 20 is Robinson-Hale Stadium. Originally opened in 1985, Robinson-Hale Stadium underwent major renovations in 2011 – the renovation brought the capacity up to 8,500 making it one of the largest stadiums in Division II, and MC is constantly ranked among the top ten teams in the country in terms of average attendance each season.
The stadium honors two men who helped establish the football program at Mississippi College; Stanley Robinson served as head coach and athletic director for 36 years, while Edwin “Goat” Hale is a former quarterback for the Choctaws (1915-16;1920-21) and is also the first Mississippi native to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Food & Beverage 2
The stadium is set up with the home stands sitting on one side and the visiting stands sitting on the other, but there are only two concessions stands in operation, one on each side. The basic ballpark fare can be found at both and prices are reasonable, with costs being hamburgers $4.50, nachos and hot dogs $4, popcorn $3, and chips or Coca-Cola products in cans for $2. As usual for a religious college no alcohol is available at Robinson-Hale Stadium.
With a seating capacity of 8,500 Robinson-Hale Stadium is currently the eighth largest D2 on-campus football stadium in the country. Its most recent renovations occurred starting in 2006 with the installation of a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface and a new track, followed by new iron fencing, new ticket booths, and new entrance gates added in 2011, and finally a new HD scoreboard installed in 2014 – much like the Choctaws basketball team next door, however, the scoreboard doesn’t show much in terms of replays.
Robinson-Hale Stadium is set up like most stadiums of this size, with home fans sitting on one side and the visiting fans sitting on the other. The field faces north and south with the typical metal bleacher seating; the Choctaw fans sit on the stands to the east, while the visiting fans sit on the side to the west. The press box is located on the east side about 40 rows up, and at Robinson-Hale Stadium the home stands are kind of built into a hill, so when you enter you enter midway up the bleachers and can either go up or down, making the stadium seem to double in size when you enter.
The home side definitely looks more modern and up to date then the visiting side does, though those stands do tend to fill up because Gulf South Conference teams travel pretty well. The home side extends from goal line to goal line, which accounts for about 80% of the 8,500 seats at Robinson-Hale Stadium, but the visiting stands only extend between the 40-yard lines. In addition, if you purchased a ticket from the home side ticket booth you are not free to walk to the visiting side, and vice versa, so make sure you know what side you want before you come inside. There is a small concessions stand on the visitors side but not much else.
The view to the north at Robinson-Hale Stadium doesn’t provide much besides a view of the woods, but the view to south provides a back drop of the golf ball-shaped A.E. Wood Coliseum, home of the Choctaws basketball team, to the southeast. The MC parking garage is directly behind the south end zone and Frierson Field, home of the Choctaws baseball team, is to the southwest; about 100 yards behind the parking garage you can see I-10. There are various people tailgating in the south parking lot and in the south parking garage, and the four-story parking garage provides excellent views of the field from the upper levels free of charge. Many fans took advantage of that fact and tailgated and grilled out by their cars with plenty of shade and excellent views of the field, while fans in the stands had to endure the elements of a hot Mississippi September afternoon; it was almost like a party atmosphere in the parking garage though, with a lot of fraternities and college kids.
There are no banners or anything at the stadium signifying past athletic feats, but there is one banner outside the stadium honoring former Choctaw and New Orleans Saints running back Fred McAfee. McAfee, perhaps the school’s most distinguished athlete, had a 15-year NFL career as an all-pro kick returner and was elected to one Pro Bowl in 2002. McAfee was eventually inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, Division II Sports Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, and Mississippi College Hall of Fame.
Clinton is a nice, small, neat little college town, located about 20 minutes west of downtown Jackson. The town of Clinton was founded in 1823, with Mississippi College being founded three years later. The town was overrun with Union officers during the Civil War which destroyed much of the town, however, in the years after the war the college and the town underwent a massive reconstruction phase that resulted in hundreds of new antebellum homes, most of which are still standing. Most of the buildings on campus were built in the years following the war, and they are made with beautiful white marble columns. Perhaps the most historic building on campus is the Provine Chapel; opened in 1860 it is the only building on campus that predates the war, and was used as a Union hospital, as well as the first floor being used to house future president Ulysses S. Grant’s horses. I recommend getting to the game early and giving yourself ample time to walk around the campus – it is very small, but scenic.
Historic Olde Town Clinton is just a couple of blocks north of campus, and is Clinton’s downtown area. I suggest walking from campus to the downtown area, as it is just a couple of blocks north along Jefferson Street. The street is lined with many beautiful antebellum homes, and with its brick-lined streets provides a very picturesque setting. In addition there are numerous mom and pop shops and small art galleries in the downtown area; a majority of the shops in this area are closed on Saturdays but there is one sit-down restaurant called 303 Jefferson (the name is the same as its address), which would be a good place to get a drink or get a hot meal. There is also a large bookstore with a cafe attached to it, but that is also closed on Saturday nights – it would be nice if some of these shops and eateries were open later.
However, the road headed into campus (Highway 80) has all the regular fast food chains, so you should be able to find plenty to eat. For lodging the area south of campus has several hotels (Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, etc.) and you are only a short 20-minute drive from Jackson, where additional lodging and restaurants can be found.
For something to visit while in the area, I recommend making the 30-minute drive west to Vicksburg, which is also a very historic town, so history buffs can spend a weekend walking around the downtown area and the Vicksburg Military Park, which was the site of one of the most important battles in the Civil War. You pay per vehicle and can drive all around the different historical areas of the park, so one could spend hours here and I highly recommend it.
Last season the Choctaws averaged about 4,100 fans per game, and this season the average is slightly lower at about 3,400, but this is partly because Homecoming and Senior Night haven’t happened yet; those two games usually account for a huge spike in attendance. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Student Section pretty full, with many fans engaged and into the game – between the people tailgating in the parking lot and in the garage, it definitely raises the score one point. It was great to see a nice turnout for this level of football, with fans treating it like their own D1 football game.
Because of the close proximity between the schools in the Gulf South Conference, and because of the easy access into Clinton, many rival fans turn out for games which can create a raucous atmosphere. In fact, for some games like when Delta State comes to town there are just as many opposing fans as Choctaw fans.
You will not find a more accessible college anywhere in the state than Mississippi College. Conveniently located in the center of the state, you are within a 3-4 hour drive to anywhere in Mississippi. The main road into Clinton is I-20, and you would take this road if traveling from the east or west. Note that I-20 can have horrendous traffic, especially at the I-55 junction, so take this into account, though it shouldn’t be a problem on a Saturday.
Mississippi College’s campus is located on the far west side of town, so take Exit 35 and you will see the large golf ball-shaped dome; this is A.E. Wood Coliseum, home of the Choctaws basketball team. The football stadium is located right next to the coliseum and the baseball field, and there is plenty of parking around the coliseum and its surrounding lots.
Highway 80 runs from Jackson right into campus, but it takes you through a rough section of town in the south Jackson area. However, if you want to take the scenic route the historic Natchez Trace Parkway also runs right through Clinton – this two-lane road is very peaceful and completely void of red lights and commercial traffic. The Trace has tons of areas you can pull off and visit such as Indian mounds, old cemeteries, historic houses, natural trails, campgrounds, etc. so if you have the time, I suggest driving down the the Trace just for its scenic beauty alone. Just make sure you go the speed limit though – the whole parkway is administered by the National Park Service and the speed limit is between 40 and 50; you will have to pay a pretty hefty fine if you are caught speeding.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets were priced as follows: $10 for general admission which allows you to sit anywhere in the grandstand, and is about an average price for this level of college football – the whole stadium is bleacher seating on both sides, except for a few chairbacks in front of the press box. The chairbacks cost $15, or you can purchase a season ticket package for the chairbacks at $75. Parking is free here and concessions prices are reasonable, so although you aren’t going to be watching future NFL stars on the field, I consider it a good return on investment with another plus being the easy accessibility. So if you are in the Jackson area on a Saturday night in the fall I would definitely recommend a trip to Clinton for a Choctaws football game.
One extra for the level of competition that comes through here on a yearly basis – though the Gulf South Conference isn’t the SEC or a power 5, it is one of premier conferences in D2 football. Fans get to see some pretty good football come through Robinson-Hale Stadium on a yearly basis, with teams like Valdosta State who have won four D2 National titles, or Delta State who have over 10 playoff appearances and who played for the National Title in 2000, or newcomers like West Florida who reached the D2 National title Game in just their second year. So, fans attending games here are watching players who could play D1 football, or at the very least compete with some of the teams in the lower level conferences at the D1 level, so the level of competition is quite high.
Another extra point goes to the campus itself – I recommend just walking around the campus and the town of Clinton before the game as the area is very pretty. The campus and downtown area cover just a couple of blocks, so you could easily walk around downtown Clinton for 30 minutes or so before the game.
Another extra goes for the accessibility; Mississippi College’s campus is one of the most convenient campuses I’ve ever visited. You could go from driving on the interstate, to parking, to sitting down in your seat in less than 10 minutes, as Robinson-Hale Stadium is literally 100 yards or so from the interstate.
Robinson-Hale Stadium remains an excellent place to watch a football game. Though you will not find a lot of frills or excitement, you will get to see some exciting football during most games from a D2 conference powerhouse. There is always guaranteed to be a good turnout for a Choctaws game, and the college has a beautiful historic campus; the downtown area also provides a nice setting, and this campus remains one of the most accessible college campuses I’ve ever been too. So, if you are in the Jackson, MS area on a Saturday in the fall then I recommend a trip to Robinson-Hale Stadium.