The night before Mississippi State kicked off its season at Dudy Noble Field in February, a few thousand gathered in the stadium for a celebration of the journey starting the very next day.
While there, the crowd was treated to a baseball version of lighting the Christmas tree, as the newest part of Bulldog baseball was unveiled and lit up for the very first time. Standing on top of the scoreboard in right field is a giant version of the Diamond Dawgs’ logo, the M-over-S, MSU’s most famous and unique symbol, exclusive to those who play within the confines of Polk-Dement Stadium.
Several additions and cosmetic upgrades have been made to the stadium since the Bulldogs returned from the College World Series back in May, but none are so symbolic, naturally, as this symbol, nor are any as big and obvious as this giant sign standing higher than all but the light poles, shining brighter than the moon rising behind it every night.
“That was really important to me,” head coach John Cohen said. “Our athletic director Scott Stricklin, who I think has tremendous vision, uses a word I don’t use enough: branding. I thought a lot about our brand, and our brand is that M-over-S.”
Anywhere he goes, Cohen said, people recognize their logo, the emblem unique to Mississippi State baseball.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “You can be in Seattle, New York – somebody’s gonna walk up to you and they know what that M-over-S stands for. That’s pretty neat, to know that Will Clark wore that M-over-S. Rafael Palmeiro wore that M-over-S and Buck Showalter wore that M-over-S, and on and on and on. It’s important.”
And it was Cohen himself who had the idea for the big, bright sign, according to Stricklin. When head coach came to athletic director with the proposition, the first thing Stricklin asked, naturally, was “how much will it cost?”
Cohen told him, then followed up by saying he had money in his budget to pay for it himself. It was that important to him.
Stricklin responded, “If you can handle it, sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it.”
And so the designs were done and the order placed.
“I told our players,” Cohen later said, “we could spend that money in other areas, but that the staying power of that and the significance of it, to me, is important.”
A hefty chunk of that significance, beyond its seemingly-universal recognition, is the exclusivity of M-over-S to the MSU baseball program.
Though all it technically stands for, obviously, is “Mississippi State,” with nothing specifically tying it baseball, no other sport on campus uses it. Never have, and they never will, so says Stricklin.
“I tell our baseball guys at the beginning of every year,” Stricklin said, “that logo is special because they’re the only sport on our campus that gets to have a unique logo. They get to do that because the people who came before in that program won to the level where that logo became synonymous with our baseball program.”
Part of what makes the M-over-S so unique, in Stricklin’s eyes, is the way it grew into such a specific symbol. Any of the standard M-State logos could mean football, academics, tennis, softball or golf. They represent everyone. The M-over-S became the only emblem to be so unique and so specific in meaning.
“We don’t want to take that away because it has too much equity,” Stricklin said. “We also don’t want to put it on the other sports because it’s unique to baseball. When people see that, they may not think Mississippi State University, but they definitely think Mississippi State baseball. There are just very few marks and logos that don’t just speak to a university, they speak to a specific sport at a university.”
Like both Stricklin and Cohen said, it became a brand. Cohen compared it to a visit he took to Yankee Stadium and the famous N-Y symbol, which he says might be branded better than any he’s ever seen.
With history intact and sign erected, Cohen hopes the future can see the M-over-S as a similar symbol for Mississippi State baseball.
“It’s important,” he said. “It’s kind of a big branding piece, but it’s really important for us to brand our program that way. It was really important to me and our players.”