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Bobby Collins, former Southern Miss and SMU football coach, dies at 88

  • November 18, 2021

Former Southern Methodist and Southern Miss footballcoach Bobby Collins, who guided the Golden Eagles to unpresented heights but was later linked to the demise of SMU, died Monday.   He was 88. 

Collins coached the Golden Eagles from 1975-81 and had a record of  48-30-2 in seven seasons. 

Southern Miss had to play the 1975 season all on the road because of renovations being made to M.M. Roberts Stadium. The Golden Eagles finished 8-3 with home games played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Municipal Stadium in Biloxi, Miss., and Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss.

In 1980, the Golden Eagles opened the season 6-0 and moved into the Associated Press poll for the first time as a Division I school when they were ranked No. 20 on Oct. 20. The Golden Eagles finished 9-3 and beat McNeese State 16-14 in the Independence Bowl, the school’s first postseason bowl since 1957.

His final season with Southern Miss may have been the best in school history. Southern Miss started the season 4-0, tied legendary coach Bear Bryant and No. 7 Alabama and at one point was No. 9 in the AP poll at 8-0-1. USM finished 9-2-1, including a 19-17 loss to Missouri in the Tangerine Bowl.

Collins, who was a star athlete at Laurel High, played quarterback at Mississippi State. 

Collins left Southern Miss after the 1981 season to become coach at SMU. The next year, the NCAA placed USM on two-years probation for promising “significant financial benefits” to recruits over the previous four seasons, according to the New York Times. The probation prevented USM from appearing in bowl games or on television. 

At SMU the Mustangs finished 11-0-1 in Collins’ first season and ended ranked No. 2. He won two Southwest Conference titles, made three bowl appearances and finished with a 43-14-1 record. However, the NCAA also placed SMU on three-year probation in 1985 for recruiting violations and paying players under his watch. Collins resigned in December 1986 and not long after SMU received The Death Penalty, which forced the program to be shut down for two years and loss of scholarships through 1990.

Former SMU running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson reacted to Collins’ death.

“Saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Bobby Collins,” Dickerson wrote on Twitter. “I had the pleasure of playing for him my senior year at SMU. One of the best to do it.”

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