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Written by Michael Urban
If Mizzou fans are honest, they will tell you that joining the SEC is a little like Andre Iguodala joining the Olympic basketball team. It’s not that Mizzou isn’t worthy of being in the nation’s most elite conference, but the Tigers’ pedigree isn’t exactly of the same lineage as the SEC’s blue bloods. Behind the bravado displayed by Head Coach Gary Pinkel and Senior WR T.J. Moe at last month’s SEC Media Days is an insecure fan base that makes Mitt Romney seem steady. Mizzou sports’ oh-so-close-but-yet-so-far exploits are well documented. There’s the Fifth Down game, Tyus Edney’s improbable buzzer beater, the Flea Kicker, and the 2007 Orange Bowl Snub to name only a few.
I’m a die-hard Mizzou fan and it pained me to write the preceding paragraph. All I want out of my significant investment (mostly time) in Mizzou sports is to experience the glory and joy of winning a national championship. When the Mizzou to the SEC chatter reached a fever pitch last fall it injected more confidence into our fan base than we’ve ever had before and if felt really good. For Mizzou fans, the press conference with Mike Slive and Bernie Machen announcing Mizzou’s entrance into the SEC engendered feelings that had to be like those experienced when your team wins a title – except we don’t get to hang a “Mizzou Joins the SEC – 2012” banner in Mizzou Arena.
Let’s face it – Mizzou needed the SEC more than the SEC needed Mizzou. So as Mizzou enters the mightiest athletic conference in America, please excuse us for thumping our chests and showering our new conference brethren with platitudes about how membership in the Southeastern Conference was Mizzou’s destiny. Truthfully, we’re just happy we get to replace conference road trips to Ames, Iowa and Manhattan, Kansas to football heavens like Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, and Baton Rouge.
It’s been nine months since the introductory press conference and Mizzou is about to begin its first football season in the SEC. Mizzou’s historic conference switch has been analyzed for months and from every angle. Fair-minded fans and pundits recognize that Mizzou in the SEC makes sense on many levels. Here are a few more reasons why we’re a good fit in y’all’s conference:
· With Mizzou, the SEC footprint expands to St. Louis and Kansas City. No, this isn’t about TV revenue and the SEC Network. The benefits of adding both the STL and KC TV markets to sweeten the impending SEC Network deal are obvious. There are a couple of other less tangible aspects to adding the St. Louis and Kansas City markets that may benefit the SEC.
Consider that Kansas City is arguably America’s best host city for premier college athletic events. When the Chiefs aren’t playing on Sundays, college athletics are the sports pulse of KC. The SEC basketball tournament would thrive in Kansas City and even Kentucky fans would appreciate KC’s college basketball history. (Note: in 2013, the SEC will be home to both the college football and basketball Hall of Fames.)
In St. Louis, the SEC potentially acquires a new Jerryworld-like football stadium. I know what you’re thinking…the SEC will NEVER move the SEC Championship game out of Atlanta. That makes perfect sense, and it’s safe to say that Atlanta will always be the SEC’s premier, home city. But let me introduce SEC fans to Columbia’s favorite billionaire, Stanley E. Kroenke.
Aside from being a Mizzou alumnus and Tom Selleck look-alike, Stan Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams and is angling for a new, world-class stadium to be built in St. Louis. If a new stadium is built in St. Louis, Stan will want the SEC Championship game in his house. And what Stan wants, Stan usually gets. Don’t be surprised if St. Louis is in an every other year-type rotation with Atlanta to host the SEC Championship game starting in 2018.
· Mizzou’s core fan base is as rabid as any in the SEC. (Yes that even includes you, Alabama.) If there’s one credential that is necessary to join the SEC it seems that an ultra-passionate, borderline crazy fan base is it. As part of the SEC’s evaluation process last fall I’m pretty sure Mike Slive asked Brady Deaton (Mizzou’s Chancellor) if Mizzou fans have the capacity to celebrate big wins like East and West Germans did when the Berlin Wall fell. Sure we do; just take a look at this video captured at Harpo’s (a legendary sports bar in Columbia) after Mizzou sealed a victory over archrival Kansas on the hardwood in February.
Tiger fans may still be getting used to sorting out the top 9th grade football prospects in the country, but we’re getting there. Give us a few years and we’ll be poisoning oak trees in Fayetteville.
· Mizzou will compete for SEC titles in football (and basketball). This should be obvious. Gary Pinkel and T.J. Moe were speaking the truth last month in Hoover, Alabama when they alluded to the disconnect between Mizzou’s expectations in the SEC and public opinion. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it does seem that many SEC fans think Mizzou competed in the Sun Belt Conference for the last 16 years before graduating to the SEC.
Look, Mizzou football has one of the highest winning percentages in the country over the last five years and has many premier wins to the program’s credit in recent memory. Former Tiger stars not only get to the NFL but also excel in the League. SEC fans from Athens to Fayetteville should recognize and embrace these facts.
The future of Mizzou football looks even brighter. Blue chip athletes want to play at Mizzou, the athletics department just announced a sweeping campaign to upgrade Memorial Stadium and season ticket sales (sold out) and donor support have never been better.
Mizzou in the SEC is going to be a lot of fun so let’s enjoy this together. We’re pleased the Big XII is our past and the promise of reversing our star-crossed sports history lies ahead in the SEC.