I figured now is as good of a time as any to survey the landscape of Mizzou Athletics as we near the close of year one in the SEC.
Only two sports have shown national dominance in their new home, softball continues to be ranked in the Top 10 and wrestling finished with a program record five All-Americans.
Two sports showed great improvement with room for growth, with gymnastics having a respectable showing at the NCAA Championships, and swimming and diving having good showings at their national meets.
The two landmark revenue-generators had sub-par years and there’s no other way to characterize it. Like it or not, the football team had the expectations to go in and compete with the big boys of the SEC and contend with what was supposed to be the weaker of the two divisions. As Mike Alden said on The Big Show, there was no way to fully grasp the kind of competitive uphill battle Missouri would undertake in the Southeastern Conference until they were actually immersed in it. Missouri will have to recruit a different kind of athlete, much like what they were facing in their transition to the Big 12, where they were just beginning to gain strides on the Texas and Oklahoma stranglehold of players.
Basketball has another story on its hands, as the rebuilding job from Frank Haith has hit a couple of road blocks. This is not necessarily a denigration on him, but more of an indictment with what he was left behind with at Missouri. We all bought into the hype that the transfers they brought in would mesh by midseason, but instead of mesh we found mutiny. There was a player who felt himself to be bigger than the team and bigger than the message sent to provide chemistry, a bond that never became stronger than two cell walls colliding together.
Both programs need different things to happen for success in this season and for their respective futures. Missouri at least needs to make a bowl, and three conference wins would help secure the future of Coach Gary Pinkel, and Mike Alden can be justified in showing the trust that has been hard to find in a coach eight wins short of the program’s all-time record. The basketball team will be given more time to try and develop, as Haith needs more than the best Revlon salesperson to make-over the entire roster.
In an entire year’s time we’ve gone from optimism to hope, Missouri fans are hoping those emotions don’t lead to despair. For some they already have.