HATTIESBURG, MS - Southern Miss honored the 1996 Golden Eagles, the first team to compete in Conference USA, at halftime of USM's 44-28 win over Rice on Saturday night.
That inaugural C-USA season for USM began with a 11-7 win at Georgia. It would fall to No. 14 Alabama the following week, a team that would eventually win the SEC West.
The Golden Eagles then went on a seven game winning streak before losing by a touchdown to Houston. That loss would give the Cougars the C-USA title by tiebreak, meaning Southern Miss would miss out on a bowl despite an 8-3 season.
But they would make up for it the following year. A team that former head coach Jeff Bower called his most talented, the Golden Eagles finished 1997 with their first C-USA title, ranked inside the top 25 and an emphatic 41-7 win over Pitt in the Liberty Bowl.
Lee Roberts, who now calls Southern Miss games on the radio alongside John Cox, took over at quarterback for the Golden Eagles in 1996 before their sixth game against East Carolina.