Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mat-titude!

So, for the second week in a row, Mizzou is in Sports Illustrated — and, unlike last week, this time it's positive coverage:

Our wrestlers are awesome.

Under ninth-year coach Brian Smith, the Tigers have risen from the depths of the Big 12 to No. 3 in the country and, thanks largely to [undefeated-over-the-past-two-years Ben] Askren, muscled past reigning four-time national champ Oklahoma State in their conference.

The depths of the Big 12, indeed. That's where they were our freshman year, when I watched them scrape out a tie against Missouri Valley (an NAIA school!) in the Hearnes Fieldhouse. They went 7-10-1 (0-4 in the Big 12) that season, their ninth losing one in a row.

But not only is it great that MU is doing so well — eight wrestlers are going to this weekend's national championships, two of them seeded first in their weight classes — I'm just as happy by this picture:





Look closely: That match is in the Hearnes Center. The wrestlers are no longer relegated to the Fieldhouse, which most students know as "where they have the blood drives, which no longer earn sororities points." And there are people there too! So maybe the student body is noticing after all.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Since we've all been wondering what he's up to


For the last year, Snyder has split time between his home in Charlotte, N.C., and a beach house he's rented in Wilmington, N.C., friends say. He took the year off to relax and take stock of his life.

and

Since [Krzyzewski] has a tendency to only employ former players as assistants, the gossip has Quin Snyder, laying low since his scandal filled run at Missouri[,] possibly returning to Durham. Snyder was responsible for some of the Blue Devils most talented teams, including being the point person in the recruitment of Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, the kind of guys Duke doesn’t currently have. So Snyder gets a safe port and an image makeover and Duke gets a big-time recruiter.

Also, note that the Star reporter says that Alden looked "tan."

Mizzou: One Year Later [KC Star]
As Good As It Gets [Yahoo Sports]

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

We're in!*

And solidly so, too! With a smaller field this year, and more automatic bids, I didn't know if we'd make it.

Bring on DePaul!

And shush — in a rebuilding year, I think this is a noteworthy achievement.

*Er, that is, on the off chance we don't knock off Texas, A&M and kU on our way to the Big 12 title, thus securing an automatic bid.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A loyal fan's I-hate-to-admit-it question

Sports Illustrated's well-done, even-handed and thorough package about big-time college sports this week* brought to the surface some sentiment that I've held for quite a while. Particularly noteworthy is a sidebar about Sean Coffey, wide receiver at Mizzou from 2001 to 2004. An excerpt:

*I'd link if it were online. What's up with that, SI?

Even though he was from the inner city and had no interest in farming, Coffey followed the advice of athletic department academic counselors and became an agriculture major.

"All the athletes start in ag because it's easy," says Coffey.

On the recommendation of an athletic department adviser he eventually switched his major to hotel and restaurant management (another subject in which he had no interest).

"Our academic people's job is to keep us eligible," he says. "They know every class and which ones are easiest."

(I'll get this out of the way now: To be fair, Coffey's experience doesn't represent all athletes'; Brad Smith, for one, already had a business administration degree and was working on his master's during his last season of college. But we all know such cases are rare in the big-money sports.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not someone who looks upon college sports with disdain. Anyone who's known me for even a day or two knows that. On the contrary, I attended almost every home football game while I was in college (many of them three or four body-paint-and-Alan-Jackson-filled hours early), camped out for good basketball seats four times (five if you include sleeping in Earl in an Athens, Ga., parking lot) and probably was in the 95th percentile of students attending women's games.

All the same, though, stuff like this that sheds light on the "student" side of "student-athlete" — not to mention the millions of dollars involved in "amateur" sports — make me wonder at what point the athletic department goes from serving the university (and the students) to being its own for-profit entity that exists for its own sake. Would MU's mission to provide a solid education be served better without the big-time, big-money sports program?

(This is also related to my distract-the-students-so-they-won't-realize-how-many-classes-are-taught-by-TAs theory.)

And for all your "Wait! But what about ..." objections, I highly recommend the book Beer and Circus by Murray Sperber, who examines, among other things, the oft-touted notion that athletic departments are self-funding.

And now, to watch us upset the Aggies.