The first three generations of Mississippi State University sports information directors stand together in the football press box at Auburn University. From L-R: Joe Dier, Bo Carter and the late Bob Hartley.
It doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did a few years back when the Starkville-Mississippi State University community was a good bit smaller—or my hearing was better. But even with more than 22,000 students and a city population of 25,000-plus, I can still relax in my back yard a few miles from campus and, on nights when the air is calm, hear the carillon at Mississippi State’s Chapel of Memories. The chiming of the 10 o’clock hour is always followed by the MSU alma mater, “Maroon and White.”
The sounding of the chapel chimes triggers reflections on a winding trail that led a Baton Rouge-born Air Force brat to a dream job in sports publicity at the “People’s University.” That path took countless twists and turns and included navigational assistance from so many people along the way.
Uncle Sam first brought me to the Magnolia State in 1966 when my dad, an LSU grad, was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base. And indirectly, MSU President William Giles introduced me to Mississippi State. As base chaplain at CAFB, my dad at times would receive complimentary tickets to MSU football games from the president’s office, and on a sunny September Saturday in 1968, I got to accompany my dad to a game. Though Coach Charley Shira’s Bulldogs would drop a 20-13 decision in their season-opener to Louisiana Tech in the collegiate debut of Tech quarterback and future NFL star Terry Bradshaw, the visit to Scott Field and the introduction to cowbells made a lasting impression.
Just in time for my senior year in high school, another Air Force move sent my family to Anchorage, Alaska, in 1970. By then, there was little doubt I’d return to Mississippi, and late summer of 1971 found me moving into Critz Hall, then one of four boomerang-shaped freshman dormitories on the 9,500-student MSU campus.
General liberal arts was the all-encompassing listing of the day for the studies of students who had yet to decide on a specific academic major. I fit safely in that slot for a year until migrating toward the media field and a degree in communication.
Work in radio provided a nudge in that direction. A small studio atop Lee Hall became home for a student-run FM radio station, WMSB, for which I held the illustrious title of sports director. That station would years later give way to Mississippi State radio station WMSV.
The experience at the radio station provided an opportunity to meet, among others, Mississippi State sports publicist Bob Hartley, along with his assistant and eventual successor in the post, Bo Carter. Their offices were tucked away on the south side of MSU basketball’s home, McCarthy Gymnasium. Both Hartley and Carter are members of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame.
Writing assignments at The Reflector, MSU’s student newspaper, and numerous journalism classes taught by the late Henry Meyer also helped shape my career path. Meyer bled untold units of red ink on my class writing assignments before my graduation ceremonies in May 1975.
Following sportswriting stops at newspapers in Yazoo City and Starkville and eight years operating MSU’s privately-owned sports publication Dawgs’ Bite, I returned to Mississippi State in 1986. This time around, I was a wide-eyed rookie sports information director in a one-person office, hired by rookie athletic director Charlie Carr and working with first-time NCAA head coaches in both football—Rockey Felker—and basketball—Richard Williams. Thankfully, the MSU sports information staff doubled at the end of my first year with the hiring of fellow Air Force brat David Rosinski.
The steady parade of improvements and achievements in MSU athletics go hand in hand with the tremendous growth and progress of the university over the years. And I count myself among the most blessed to have a front row, now back yard, seat for so much of it.
Joe Dier retired from Mississippi State in 2013 as assistant director of media relations. A 1975 MSU communication graduate, he spent 12 years in sports journalism before returning to the university as part of the sports information staff, covering football and ultimately becoming the primary publicist for baseball and volleyball.