Much like America, as we near November, the Mizzou Nation or Rock M Nation as some call it, is a crossroads. We are the middle class of the college sports world. And much like America, our infrastructure is behind the times.
When Mizzou started this journey into the Southeastern Conference, it was met with skepticism. We responded with rebranding ourselves with new uniforms and MIZ!-SEC! chants. The uniforms were a part of a forward thinking movement that has since been lost by off-field distractions, coaching changes, and poor performances on the field. Since we are now lost, the university should look back to the goals coming into the SEC.
“The University of Missouri brand is one that stands for pride, integrity, social responsibility, and hard work but until now, our visual identity has been inconsistent across various sports,” said Don Barnes, Director of Equipment Operations.
In 2012 the new uniforms were an example of trying to stay with the curve and attempts to stay ahead of it. Now, every school has multiple uniforms and Mizzou no longer is being innovative with its new “costumes,” and could be doing much more via: Cincinnati Bengals inspired tiger stripe helmet (Memphis did this) or using the coolest uniform we ever did with the Stealth ProCombat Uniforms of 2009. Oregon, Maryland, Texas Tech, etc. are teams that push the envelope with the uniforms, and these gimmicks haven’t translated into winning seasons recently sans Oregon’s Chip Kelly offensive revolution. Furthermore, even Kelly’s best teams didn’t have the high level recruiting class, and Oregon is in a free fall despite the “coolest” uniforms.
Michigan has won one championship since 1948. One, and it was 20 years ago. Despite this lack of success, it is considered college football blue blood because of two key factors: Facilities and History. This is the infrastructure of college football, and the roadmap to success. Look no further than Baylor, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss.
Baylor is a dumpster fire of a location. It is in Waco, Texas which is famous for two things:
(1) The Branch Davidian Compound Massacre; and
(2) Fixer upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Much has changed in the last 10 years, sans the scandals, and that was due to a commitment to facilities and making up a historic program from thin air out of clips of Mike Singletary gospels and a 1951 #9 poll finish that comprised this fairytale football history that juxtaposes historical data. In other words, they Trumped up their football team history, and parlayed that with the amazing first season of RG3 into building a new stadium that overlooks the Brazos River. Art Briles, took this flash in the pan season and built on it via recruiting highly questionable moral conduct talents that other established programs had deemed too toxic. This has transformed their program from cellar rat to competing for the college football playoff.
Ole Piss’s ascension is similar. First step, claim “contested” national titles: 1959 (Berryman, Billingsley, Dunkel); 1960 (Football Writers Association of America); and 1962 (Billingsley Report, Litkenhouse). You will notice that none of these are the AP Poll or Coaches Poll, which is the traditional standard. These are contested at best.
Next step, hire shady coach with close high school football ties that allows players access to boosters and land recruits that usually went to traditional powers. This success infused the program with life and it was able to capitalize on the celebrity that The Blind Side phenomena created. Now the stadium and facilities have seen a renaissance over the last few years.
Texas A&M left the Big12 with the Mizzou Tigers claiming the 1939 national title, but started SEC play in 2012 with 3 national titles. Why? Because in the words of Donald Trump “they are smart.” This Trumped up stat sheet is helpful with recruits, and alumni support. People want to affiliate with winners, even if the winning is based on a lie or a scandal. A&M parlayed their entrance into the SEC with plans to make their stadium into the Taj Mahal of Texas, bigger and more beautiful than rival Texas’s DKR Memorial Stadium. And, it has worked. A&M’s three national titles from yester year have made Paul Finnebaum refer to them as college football royalty. They now get the benefit of the doubt from the pundits at ESPN and FS1.
So what can Mizzou do?
CHANGE THE HISTORICAL NARRATIVE
I bet not many people know that South Carolina had its first bowl win in 1995, as in 21 years ago. I am sure most pundits would label them with a richer football history than Mizzou because they have been in the SEC since 1992.
The narrative starts with claiming the 1960 title. Many might not know this but Mizzou was the best team in the nation in 1960, and it’s only loss was vacated because Kansas got caught cheating in an atrocious manner. Minnesota claims this title despite two loses and a Rose Bowl loss. The Polling System rewards Missouri with this title, so let’s start claiming it. This is why the Mizzodcast is selling these T-Shirts celebrating the 1960 championship. Hopefully, the administration will adopt this policy after the fans start doing it.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
Please look at the facilities at other SEC schools.Today however, Mizzou is dramatically underinvested in our football future and is playing catch-up. Estimates of the size of our “infrastructure gap” is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But, I don’t think we need a 100,000 seat stadium. Our limited suites, single large video screen, limited concourse, ever changing tailgating grounds, etc. makes it harder for fans to engage in the gameday festivities. Meanwhile, schools like A&M are racing ahead, building projects that invite the fan to drive growth into the 21st century. We need to look at creative ways to use our stadium to drive attendance and atmosphere. I think this is two-fold: (1) allow alcohol in stadium; and (2) increase usage rate of stadium.
SEC rules prohibit anyone from leaving and re-entering Faurot Field at half time, the purpose seems to keep fans from going back to tailgate and returning more intoxicated. Selling alcohol in the stadium helps bypass the draconian halftime re-entry rule. It can also be argued that sales in the stadium would be more regulated therefor discouraging underage drinking and binge drinking. Furthermore, the economic benefit of alcohol sales in this controlled environment would be another revenue for the University. You might even be able to incorporate the hotel-restaurant management degree program into this and in tradition of college athletics provide the new alcohol sales industry with “free” labor.
Approximately 40 schools will offer beer (at least) to the general public at their college football stadiums. Several more schools are considering joining the party. West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons started the current trend in 2011 by offering alcohol inside Milan Puskar Stadium to cut down on binge drinking outside of it. Furthermore, this year the University of Colorado athletic director Rick George announced the expansion of beer sales through the addition of two beer gardens on the west side of Folsom Field.
Columbia is home to some delicious craft beers, Logboat and Flat Branch to name a few. But, up until 2004 St. Louis, Missouri, was the beer capital of the world, and Mizzou was able to capitalize on that relationship to build the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building home of sleepy freshman year lectures. In fact, the iconic Anheuser-Busch tattoo on Justin Smith’s left bicep created greater cross promotions, than the Mizzou faculty was ever able to muster.
AB InBev still has a great presence in Missouri, and Jim Sterk needs to approach them about a beer garden or corporate sponsorship of the South End Zone renovation.
There are seven home games in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. There should be more uses than these games and the Black and Gold spring game every year. This is where the university must be creative. Notre Dame's Campus Crossroads Project is unquestionably the most progressive take on the increased usage rate concept integrating classes into the "House the Rockne Built". Maryland unveiled its vision for a dynamic academic, research and athletic facility, and the $155 million project will renovate and expand Cole Field House to include the Terrapin Performance Center, the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance and the future home of the Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Missouri’s journalism school is generally considered one of the best journalism schools in the nation, partly because of the Missouri Method. The Missouri Method takes its shape from that “Show Me State” attitude and forces students to test their comfort levels by learning by doing. This mentality can be capitalized by using ideas large and small, costly and cheap. Examples of these stadium uses are as follows: host fundraising events; wedding receptions; incorporating physical therapy degree programs into the south end zone project; offering ticket sales and promotion externships to students increased in working in sports; building a hotel overlooking the stadium, build a brewery for chemical engineers to offer a subset of their degree program; or other hundreds of other options.
Regardless of the usage rate, the new football facilitiies must be so nice that NFL, NBA and MLB Mizzou alumni are coming here in the offseason to workout because it's so high tech.
Mizzou’s comprehensive infrastructure investment agenda needs to use its existing resources and provide a down payment on a stronger Mizzou — enhancing our competitiveness, giving families a better life, combating climate change, and protecting our communities. In order to do this Mizzou will need to harness both public and private capital. As corn-holing friends up north say, "If you build it, they will come" ... The “they” is not only the fans, but their money, and their ideas, and the athletes, and the success, and the championships, and the so on and so forth.