The Origin of “South in Your Mouth”
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 08:36
You hear it at just about every South Alabama sporting event. Fans shout it, use it as part of the kickoff and free throw chants at football and basketball games, or yell it after a big play. But many don’t know where it started, or what it actually means.
“South in Your Mouth,” or SIYM, has been a staple among South Alabama students when it comes to Jaguar athletics. Many students yell it, thinking nothing of it. Most just hear the phrase and include it as part of the culture of South Alabama.
But where did it start? Who started it? Was it the band, or maybe the cheerleaders? Was it a drunk fan who yelled something funny and it just stuck?
The answer is a combination of all of the above.
Three roommates, Patrick Dungan, Jeff Garl and Mike Odair, created the phrase during the fall 2001 semester while attending a basketball game.
It all started when a USA player blocked an opponent’s shot. Dungan reacted by yelling, “In your face!” At the same moment, Garl yelled, “Mouf,” which at the time was an equivalent to “in your face.” Odair then combined the two and yelled, “South in Your Mouth.”
The rest, as they say, was history.
“We started it,” said Dungan, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in anthropology before going on to law school at South Carolina. “And the cheerleaders may have given it more legs by following our lead and incorporating it into the post free throw chant.”
“We were so obnoxious about it once we all came up with it that it was more of something to make ourselves laugh than heckle the other team,” said Odair. “Patrick (Dungan) did it during a silent free throw… well, it just stuck to us from then on out. But, because we would cheer it in our fraternity (TKE) section, and then little by little the cheerleaders, who we had friends on the squad, as well as the Outlaws began cheering it, it just kind of stuck.”
Odair graduated in 2004 with a degree in radio, television and film. He is now the executive producer of the popular A&E show, Duck Dynasty.
The phrase spread organically among the students, with more and more fans jumping in and using SIYM.
“We didn’t go out and campaign it,” said Garl, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in communication. “I assume it started going viral at our fraternity house. From there, it made its way to the mainstream via the Outlaws student pep organization probably the following season. Some of our TKE brothers were influential in that group and orchestrated a bunch of guys painting “South In Yo Mouth” on their chests for a game, and I can only assume it stuck from there. There was a Vanguard issue with a big picture of the Outlaws all painted up. I remember taking a copy back home to my buddies in Florida, where the ‘in your mouth’ portion originated. They were pretty stoked to see it on a large scale.”
The phrase became almost a part of the school’s athletic tradition, and when South Alabama basketball games were televised on ESPN, many commentators would point out the phrase, which was heard clearly through the broadcast.
SIYM continued untouched until 2010, when Dr. Joel Erdmann, USA’s athletic director, asked the band and cheerleaders to stop using the phrase “due to the ambiguity of the expression.” The concern was that some people would hear the phrase and think that it means something derogatory.
When broken down, however, this is not the case. The phrase “South in Your Mouth” is meant to be synonymous with “South Alabama, in your face.” Almost like a battle cry, it can be rallying call for fans to stand up and say, “Yea, that’s my university that just did that.”
In a story published by The Vanguard on Sept. 27, 2010, fans reportedly were resistant to the idea of not being able to use the phrase anymore. Three years later, a few students still feel the same way.
“I think it’s crazy because it’s a phrase students say to support our team,” senior public relations major Dallas Gibbons said. “It’s our thing, like Auburn says ‘War Eagle’ or Alabama says ‘Roll Tide’, we say “South in Your Mouth.”
It caused such a stir, even ESPN picked up the story.
Despite it being frowned upon, saying that the phrase was banned has almost solidified its place in South Alabama history.
“The biggest boost to its legacy was when Dr. Erdmann told the band and cheerleaders they couldn’t say it anymore and it made ESPN’s website,” said Dungan. “That secured it.”
“I personally thought it was ridiculous,” Odair said of the ban. “I mean, it was never meant to be interpreted sexually. Maybe Erdmann knew it was something, but much like a fat comedian making fun of his own weight, he beat everyone to the punch, essentially ensuring college kids would continue to do it.”
“If anything, they just assured it will be around until the end of time,” former SGA president Kim Proctor told The Press-Register in 2010.
A similar ban was instituted at the University of Alabama, when “Rammer Jammer” was banned in the late 1980s and again in 1994 before the ban was lifted for good.
Even though the band and cheerleaders can’t use it, the free throw chant is still used by fans today, with a cadence of “U-S-A, South in Your Mouth, Go Jags.”
“I came back to a South game a year ago, and during a free throw, when we made it, this cheer was yelled,” said Odair. “I had no heads up that it lasted and had become a staple chant. My jaw dropped, and I happened to be at the game with Patrick Dungan. Before I could get the words out, he looked at me, smiled and said, ‘I know, right? It stuck.’ Pretty cool moment.”
Will “South in Your Mouth” always be banned at the university? Will the ban be lifted? Or will the phrase eventually just fade away?
“I think it’s there forever,” said Dungan. “It is entrenched at South as much as ‘Roll Tide’ and ‘War Eagle’ are at those other schools.”
“If it does fade out, that’s fine,” said Garl. “No big whoop. It was fun to see it be a thing for a while.”
“Until the next drunken college fanatics do it, I hope it doesn’t,” said Odair. “I think it says it all, don’t you?”
It is obvious that “South in Your Mouth” is a big part of the culture of South Alabama. When EA Sports recreated South Alabama in their video game, NCAA Football 14, the phrase was incorporated into the team intro and is chanted on third downs when the Jags are on defense.
It may always be banned, but it will probably never go away. Cheerleaders and band members will continue to struggle to censor themselves when they are at a South Alabama game. But then again, maybe the ban will be lifted, and the University will embrace the phrase as part of who it is.
Who wouldn’t buy a “South in Your Mouth” T-shirt from the USA Bookstore?