This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi
John Cox has experienced nearly four decades' worth of University of Southern Mississippi homecomings, the majority of them in the radio broadcast booth as the "Voice of the Golden Eagles."
And before prepping to call the Oct. 29 USM-Marshall football game, Cox has another important duty to fulfill earlier in the day – serving as grand marshal for the school's annual homecoming parade, which begins at 11 a.m. at Midtown Market on Hardy Street and travels to the main entrance of the Hattiesburg campus.
Joining Cox in the parade will be the Pride of Mississippi Marching Band and Dixie Darlings, USM cheerleaders, floats representing campus and local organizations and businesses, businesses and high school marching bands, among others.
"I was kind of stunned when I got the call, but also very honored because of how much I love USM and that they thought enough of me to ask if I would do it," said Cox, a 1978 USM alumnus who is in his 39th year with the University's Athletics Department, now serving as its director of sports broadcasting. Among his many duties, he handles play-by-play broadcasts of Southern Miss football, men's basketball and baseball.
Cox, a native of Middletown, Ohio who came to USM as a student in the mid-1970s to play basketball and pursue a degree in radio, television and film, says every homecoming is special. With the spotlight on him in this year's parade, the 2016 edition of the event will likely stand out among the others.
"Everything that occurs around the game is special at homecoming," he said. "I like to come to campus a little early that day to see all of the decorations, the floats and the traditions that continue. It's also neat to see people you haven't seen in a while, and their reactions to being back on campus after being away for many years."
A 2014 inductee of the Southern Miss Alumni Hall of Fame, Cox said Southern Miss first popped up on his radar when he was in high school, when he saw a copy of the annual Street and Smith college basketball preview magazine opened to the page profiling the USM program.
"For whatever reason, it attracted me," he said. "I wrote to then USM basketball coach Jeep Clark asking about joining the team as a walk-on, and learned more about the school and its radio, television and film program. I was interested in going into broadcasting as a career, and so it just seemed like the place for me, where I could make all my dreams come true."
Cox played on the junior varsity basketball team for Clark, then transitioned into working with the University's Sports Information and Public Relations Offices, initially calling USM baseball and women's basketball games as a student. Of the multitude of Southern Miss sporting events he's called, Cox says "they've all been special, and I always look forward to the next one."
Leveraging his own experience as eyewitness to USM sports history and research of athletics department records, he authored two books on USM football: Rock Solid: Southern Miss Football (2004) and A Season to Remember: 1958 Southern Miss Football, the Story of the 1958 UPI College Division National Championship (2008). He is working on another book focusing on the USM basketball program.
William "Bud" Kirkpatrick, former longtime director of public relations at USM, says Cox's contributions as the Voice of the Golden Eagles are immeasurable. "John Cox started working with us as an undergraduate, and was able to cut his teeth working around some of the best in the business like Bill Goodrich and Ace Cleveland," Kirkpatrick said. "He's done everything the right way in the broadcasting business, and every time I hear him on the radio I'm proud of him."
This year's homecoming theme, "Forever Gold," might be an apt description of Cox, as he's considered a USM institution by so many Golden Eagles fans. He says if you told him when he was an undergraduate he'd I'd still be at USM 40 years later working in his chosen field, he wouldn't have believed you.
"But looking back, it feels like I was always meant to be here," Cox said. "When I was a student, I never found anyone who didn't lend a hand to help me meet my goals, to help me get where I wanted to go, whether it was members of the faculty or staff, or fellow students and coaches. It's just a special place.
"I can't wait for this year's homecoming, to be a part of the parade and enjoy the excitement with all of our fans."
For more information about the parade, including registering an entry, contact the USM Dean of Students by Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 601.266.6028. For more information about Southern Miss's 2016 homecoming, visit https://www.usm.edu/homecoming.