What’s a successful athletic department without contributions from its football, men’s basketball and baseball teams? Guest Contributor Tom Weyerich recaps the seasons of the teams we’re accustomed to seeing in the headlines.
Earlier this week I discussed the achievements of the Mizzou sports teams who may not always make the headlines. Well today it’s time to focus on the teams and players you already know about. Not only did the following teams have success on the field, these Tigers also showed academic prowess and a select few were able to take their game to the professional level.
If we were to be talking about a great athletic year in March or early April, it would have read something like this: It was a successful athletic year except for the huge disappointment for the baseball team. But, this is why these types of things are written at the end of the year.
Baseball: While the Tigers may not have been their best, or even lived up to preseason projections, in the end they still had a season that can be considered successful. After the first eight games of 2009 the Tigers sat 1-7. As of April 11, the Tigers had just received a 19-0 Sunday beat down in Waco, Texas against the Baylor Bears. They had fallen to 6-9 in conference play. Mizzou then went on a tear, winning 10 of their final 12 conference matchups, including two sweeps, including one against heated rival Nebraska. The Tigers gathered two wins in the Big 12 Tournament and reached the finals, losing to the tournament’s number one overall seed, Texas. The Tigers were a two seed in Mississippi’s regional for the NCAA tournament and managed a victory there to end the season with a record 34-25. Missouri went from dead in the water twice, to battle back to playing for the Big 12 championship and an opportunity to go to the College World Series.
With on field success the University of Missouri continues to impress, but truly bringing out the meaning of student athlete, the baseball team did its part in the classroom as well. Mizzou placed ten players on the Big 12 academic all-first team, leading the Big 12 in first teamers and second in overall selections. Seniors Kyle Mach and Scooter Hicks lead the way, followed by underclassmen Kyle Gibson, Trevor Coleman, Aaron Senne, Ryan Ampleman, Nick Tepesch, Andrew Thigpen, Kelly Fick, and Phil McCormick.
Individually, Kyle Gibson was named as a Golden Spikes semi-finalist, the award is college baseball’s Heisman. In addition, Gibson was a first round selection of the Minnesota Twins (The hometown team of our main writer Michael). Another Tiger hurler, Aaron Crow was drafted higher, 12th to his hometown Royals (Crow was originally drafted in 2008 by Washington but never signed). The man to whom they both threw, catcher Trevor Coleman, was selected in the ninth round by Seattle. Third baseman Kyle Mach went to the Giants in round 27, Aaron Senne was drafted in round 32 and if he signs will join Gibson in the Twins farm system. Senne’s outfield partner Ryan Lollis will join Mach in San Fransico after going ten rounds after Mach. Rounding out the entire outfield getting drafted is Greg Folgia who was plucked by the Cleveland Indians in the 40th round. As for the All-conference team, Gibson and Folgia were first team, while Trevor Coleman, Kyle Mach and Aaron Senne made the honorable mention team.
Football: Many will tell you the 2008 football team was not successful. In fact, as you sit there gazing at your 2008 preseason SI with ‘Missouri’ boldly printed across the cover, you may still be thinking, ‘what could have been?’ You may even still be angry about stinging losses such as the home L to Oklahoma State, the kU loss and the embarrassment down in Austin. However, the truth is, the season was still a good one for the football team. Before you stop reading, here are some things to consider before you call me crazy for calling 2008 a success:
– Missouri is one of six teams in the Big 12 North. They had more players drafted by the NFL than the other five combined.
– Five schools had two players go in the first round of the NFL draft including Mizzou. Joining them were USC, Ohio State, Georgia, and Ole Miss, which is pretty solid company.
– The Tigers were one of thirteen BCS schools to win 10+ games this past season, and over the last three years Missouri is number 3 in total wins trailing only Southern Cal and Oklahoma. Maybe you’ve heard of them.
– Missouri was also one of two teams playing in KC for the Big 12 championship, sure they didn’t win, but the ten other teams in the conference did not even play that weekend.
– The Tigers won their bowl game against a BCS opponent and finished 19th and 16th respectively in the polls.
Not only was Gary Pinkel’s crew a success on the field, but also in the classroom as well. The football team held up its end of making the players Student-Athletes, by finishing first in the Big 12 North in Academic Progress rate (bad or low rates can cause probation or loss of scholarships) as well having all 23 Tiger Seniors graduate, some this spring, some earlier and had gone on to start on their next level of education. The Tigers also had six men make the Academic All Big 12 first team, the Chases at QB, three Offensive Lineman, Colin Brown, Austin Wuebbels and Dain Wise joined them, along with Kicker Jeff Wolfert. Ziggy Hood and Kurtis Gregory were 2nd teamers. Chase Daniel’s on and off field success was combined into being named a finalist for the Wuerrfel award, which combines academic and athletic success. Daniel was also a finalist for the Lowe’s senior CLASS award which wraps up leadership, spirit of competition, academic success and involvement in the community. Daniel was also named a finalist for the Unitas Award given to the nation’s top senior QB. Daniel and Jeremy Maclin were two of 15 semifinalists for the Maxwell award, given to the collegiate player of the year. Maclin was named a finalist for the Biletnikoff for the wide out of the year. Chase Coffman was the recipient of the Mackey award, given annually to the best tight end in the country. William Moore was one of thirteen defensive backs in consideration for the Jim Thorpe award. Sean Weatherspoon was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player and the LOTT trophy to the defensive IMPACT player. Maclin and Coffman were both AP first team All Americans and Coffman was named to the American Football Coaches Association first team. Missouri had two first round draft picks in Maclin and Hood, Moore joined the fun in the second round, Coffman jumped on board in the third, Colin Brown joined the party in the fifth, and DE Stryker Sulak rounded out in the sixth round.
Men’s Basketball: The most exciting run in Tiger sports was that of the basketball team during the NCAA tournament. Missouri beat Memphis in the Sweet Sixteen and eventually ran out of steam in the Elite Eight matchup versus UConn. Success started at the top for Mizzou this past season. Coach Mike Anderson won two Coach of the Year awards for his excellence guiding the Tiger squad. The team compiled 33 victories beating top foes such as USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Marquette, and exciting wins over Kansas and Memphis. The team went on a roll in the Big 12 tournament, won it all and earned themselves a three seed in the Big Dance. Senior Demarre Carroll was named first team All Big 12. Joining him were Leo Lyons on the third team and junior JT Tiller on the honorable mention team. However, Tiller was named Co-Defensive player of the year and was the only unanimous selection to the Big 12 all-defensive team. Senior Matt Lawrence was named as a co-sixth man of the year in the conference. Mizzou’s Mr. Big Shot, junior Zaire Taylor rounded out the achievements by making the all newcomer team. Carroll and Lawrence were academic All Big 12 as well. (For an interesting look back on our thoughts on the hoops season back in March click here: https://missouricolumns.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/so-close/ )
The “big three” of Tiger sports combined to be the first program to ever play for Big 12 championships in basketball, baseball, and football all in the same year. While everyone would like to see a national championship brought home to Columbia, it is certain that 2008-2009 was still the greatest athletic year in school history.
*Also a note on the All Academic teams, transfers and freshman are not eligible, and a student-athlete must compete in 60% of contests to also be eligible.