The Mizzou football and basketball teams haven’t exactly been making headlines lately. But for this time of the year, that is nothing but good news.
There are a lot of good things happening with Missouri’s athletic department lately. The softball team won the Big 12 Championship, the baseball team clinched the border war victory with two wins over Kansas. Faurot Field and Taylor Stadium will be getting upgraded sound and video systems.
Notice how none of those things deal directly with the football team or the men’s basketball team. Some may consider that a bad thing, but in reality, that is exactly what Mizzou fans should be hoping for. At this time of the year for the football team, spring practice is over, the NFL draft has come and gone, and summer workouts are yet to begin. In hoops, the season is long gone and outside of recruiting, there isn’t much to discuss. Missouri fans should only hope that both teams remain out of the headlines for the time being.
Currently, the only way members of the men’s basketball or football team will make headlines would be for all the wrong reasons. When I say Blaine Dalton, what comes to mind? It’s probably not the 193 passing yards he accounted for in spring scrimmages. More than likely, it is his recent arrest. While Dalton may very well be innocent (let’s hope his side of the story is true), it is imperative for the university, the athletic department, and their respective teams that these young men stay out of trouble during the off-season. You would think it would be easy for players to stay out of trouble in Columbia, Missouri in the middle of summer, but the past has proved otherwise. Let’s just hope that these current teams don’t make the same mistakes.
Gary Pinkel and Mike Anderson are both known as coaches that recruit high character players. However, before we assume that their players will stay out of trouble, let’s take a little trip down memory lane to a time when each program had more than its fair share of run-ins with the law. We’ll begin with the basketball team, where past headlines tell a dismal story of violence, drinking and criminal acts. It is amazing how a team that at one point had more arrests than Big 12 wins, was able to turn things around so quickly. However, as quickly as things can be improved, one or two poor decisions can very quickly turn the promising upcoming 2009-2010 season into a depressing one.
Take for instance this time just two years ago. The Tiger basketball team was coming off an 18-12 season, their first under Head Coach Mike Anderson. They had improved their record from 12-16 just the season before. Mizzou was set to lose only one player to graduation and Greg Dandridge was far from an impact player. All five starters including Big 12 newcomer of the year, Stefhon Hannah, would return and many believed the Tigers would end their NCAA tournament drought. Plus, Anderson’s nephew, a big man who transferred from Vanderbilt named DeMarre Carroll would be eligible to play. Carroll would add needed depth to the front court. All signs pointed to a good 2008-2009 season. What a difference a few decisions can make.
Between Missouri’s disappointing loss to Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 tournament to end their 2006-2007 season and January 30th of the following season, Mizzou would see countless off-court incidents doom their season. DeMarre Carroll got shot, Kalen Grimes was dismissed from the team for assaulting someone with a loaded shotgun, Daryl Butterfield earned a suspension for hitting his girlfriend, Mike Anderson Jr. received a DUI, and five players were suspended for the infamous Athena brawl. Before the season began, Missouri had lost its starting center in Grimes. Before the season ended they lost their leading scorer, assister and shooter in Hannah. A total of 7 players had earned suspensions during the year. The result: a 16-16 record, including a 6-10 record in Big 12 play. Missouri had taken a serious step backward in Anderson’s second year as coach. Attendance plummeted. Community support plummeted. The Missouri Tigers had quickly become a team of thugs in the eye of the community.
This past season, the basketball team earned many accolades for their great season. However, they earned fewer accolades for the fact that they were able to avoid the off court disasters that doom an entire season. The only headlines Missouri fans should be hoping for from these players is for their play on the court and nothing else.
Until school resumes and the buzz of the upcoming Arch Rivalry game picks up, Missouri fans should also be hoping that I have very little on which to comment about the football team. A year ago, Missouri dismissed reserve linebacker Marquis Booker following his run-in with the law. Again, the Missouri athletic department was drawing off-season headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Booker was arrested on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon after police found a loaded 9-millimeter Ruger handgun in the passenger seat of a car Booker was driving. While this incident was bad enough, throw in the fact that the car was Jeremy Maclin’s and that Maclin, Sean Weatherspoon and incoming freshman George White were in the car at the time, and the Mizzou football team had potential for a complete disaster. Luckily, Maclin, Spoon, and White made good decisions and were not involved in the incident. Could you imagine if that night had gone differently how different the already disappointing 2008 season would have been? Let’s say it’s Maclin that was flashing the gun instead of Booker. How different would the 2008 season have been? How different would the program be? Where would Maclin be right now?
An entire season and even an entire athletic department can be torn down in a matter of minutes by poor decisions made by just one or two people. Mike Alden and the athletic department have worked hard to establish Missouri on the national scene in both football and men’s basketball. Bad choices could quickly wipe that all away. So while summer can be a little dull without major headlines being made by those two sports, Missouri fans should hope it stays that way. Because in this time of the year, Mizzou could only draw major headlines for all the wrong reasons.