Category Archives: Big 12

Missouri eager for jump to SEC 


By R.B. Fallstrom
The Associated Press

Daryle Bascom, director of Facilities and Events for the University of Missouri, hangs a banner with all 14 SEC conference team names just before the announcement of MU joining the SEC.

Perhaps the only downer in Missouri’s jump to the Southeastern Conference is the indefinite interruption of the feisty border conflict with Kansas.

Left behind in the Big 12, the Jayhawks were left feeling abandoned, jilted. Men’s basketball coach Bill Self said several times last season that he couldn’t see scheduling the Tigers anytime soon.

There seem to be no hard feelings anywhere else, including the big city just down the road that used to benefit from the Missouri-Kansas rivalry. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden took delight this past week announcing that a $30 million gift that jump-started the school’s $200 million facilities facelift came from Kansas City.

“I thought it was pretty special to know that coming straight out of Kansas City was the second-largest gift to ever be made in the history of the University of Missouri,” Alden said. “Certainly the move to the SEC was something that created quite a bit of enthusiasm and support.”

Missouri’s move to the SEC is official on Sunday, ending an association with the Big 12 and its previous incarnations dating to 1907. There’s no looking back. An SEC logo already adorns midfield.

The campus is sleepy this time of year. Yet, there’s unprecedented excitement about the inaugural year in a league that has recently dominated the top tier of college football in particular.

A Tiger Town initiative endorsed by the Columbia Tribune proposes closing downtown to vehicles and relaxing the city’s open container policy to accommodate “increasing hordes of Southeastern Conference visitors” and create a “pedestrian downtown party zone.” Tickets are scarce for the inaugural SEC game against Georgia in September, just the second meeting between the schools. Alabama comes to Columbia in October.

Season ticket holder David Branom of Kirkwood, Mo., is anticipating making mini-vacations out of “some great road trips.”

“I did not want Missouri to leave the Big 12,” Branom said. “And I have always thought the SEC thought a little too highly of itself. But now we’re a part of it, so I need to change my attitude.”

During a summer men’s basketball teleconference several days ago, the new guys had the welcome mat out.

“Clearly, last year they were one of the top five teams from start to finish,” Florida’s Billy Donovan said of the Tigers. “Some of them are gone but others are coming, and I’m a big, big fan of Phil Pressey.”

John Calipari, coach of national champion Kentucky, believes the new SEC, which is also adding Texas A&M, will send half of its teams to the NCAA tournament.

“And that’s going to be from here on out,” Calipari said.

So rather than Oklahoma and Texas, the top-end competition in football will be Alabama and LSU. Or Arkansas, where there is also an attractive rivalry possibility in men’s basketball given that Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson led the Tigers for four seasons.

“Now it’s just gotten a little more interesting,” Anderson said. “They bring a great deal to the league. The whole athletic program, what Mike Alden has done, has been tremendous. and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

Football coach Gary Pinkel has characterized the move as “mammoth.” He is fired up about a renovation project that will add 6,000 seats and luxury suites, along with other improvements that should make it easier to sell high school prospects that Missouri is a destination school. The boost in attendance to about 76,000, in anticipation of increased demand relating to the move, would still be ninth in the SEC. But it makes a statement nonetheless.

“It’s great for many reasons but it’s also huge for recruiting,” Pinkel said. “Players want to go to a place where they’re going to be the best, where they have excellent facilities, as good as anyone in the country. That’s what we’re going to have.”

What Missouri had before now was instability and a feeling of second-class citizenship in a conference dominated by Texas. Missouri and Texas A&M are leaving one year after Colorado and Nebraska jumped ship. The Big 12 is adding TCU and West Virginia to remain at 10 members.

The Tigers will compete in the East division along with Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

The huge benefit to the convincing case for switching is an influx of cash. The SEC distributed a record $18.3 million to its 12 schools last year.

Missouri is spending in anticipation, pouring money into improvements, with the initial round also including facility upgrades for softball, baseball, tennis and golf.

“We made a commitment early on to be the best in all that we could be, academically as well as athletically,” Chancellor Brady Deaton said. “It’s a proud moment when you can hold your head high and say we’re doing it right at Missouri in every day.”

Both major sports appear ready for the move.

Pinkel has taken the Tigers to a bowl game the last seven seasons, and eight times overall, most in school history. Last year’s senior class finished with the highest four-year victory total in school history, and there’s been a solid run of first-round NFL draft picks in recent years including Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert and 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith.

Haith’s first team was the surprise of the Big 12, and the victory total the last four seasons is another school best. Haith played at Kentucky and Mississippi State when he was at the University of Miami, so he has a bit of familiarity with the new league.

One of the downsides for the northernmost SEC member is an increased travel budget. No more going Greyhound.

In Haith’s first season here, there were five bus trips. In season two, there will be none.

“We’ve got a little bit longer distance to go where we’re playing, and they’re really good,” Haith said.

*Associated Press writer Alan Sher Zagier contributed to this report.

Missouri, Texas A&M officially welcomed to SEC with big party

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA — It’s not often Texas A&M fans in Georgia have the chance to pose for photos with Reveille, the collie mascot.

It’s a similar rarity to see Missouri mascot Truman the Tiger high-stepping through the halls of an Atlanta hotel. LSU? Auburn? No, this is a different cat.

Reveille and Truman have a new conference home, and introductions were in order on Wednesday night.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive and the SEC held an official welcoming party for Missouri and Texas A&M, only three months before the Tigers and Aggies open their first football schedules as members of the conference.

Slive noted that Atlanta hosts the SEC championship game. He said for one night, the city “is Missouri and Texas A&M and we welcome y’all to Atlanta and the Southeastern Conference.”

Among those attending the event were Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, Tigers football coach Gary Pinkel, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, and Aggies football coach Kevin Sumlin.

Missouri’s first SEC game will come at home on Sept. 8 against Georgia.

“It’s going to be mammoth,” Pinkel said. “It’s going to be very historic. It will be our first SEC game and our first SEC home game that we play. It will be wild.”

For Missouri fans in SEC country, this new relationship is a dream come true.

“Thrilled. It was a wild ride,” said Jon Smalley, a 1991 Missouri graduate who lives in Alpharetta, Ga., near Atlanta and attended the party with his 8-year-old son, Wyatt. Each wore Missouri shirts.

Smalley said he worried as he heard rumors about Missouri joining other conferences.

“We were supposed to be going to the Big Ten,” Smalley said. “Then we didn’t know where we would end up. Mountain West? It was scary. Then boom, we ended up in the SEC. I was thrilled. And the SEC East is great, especially, living in Atlanta.”

Loftin said Texas A&M’s academics will gain more attention through the publicity generated by competing in SEC athletics.

“We haven’t had a good national stage so one of the drivers for me was the recognition that the SEC provides a lens through which the world can see Texas A&M, not simply for athletics, but for its many dimensions,” Loftin said. “We think this is going to be a great boost for the brand, if you will, for Texas A&M and puts us on a national stage like we haven’t been before.”

Loftin said the second major motivation was to enjoy equal financial footing in the SEC, which he said the Aggies lacked when competing with Texas in the Big 12 and the old Southwest Conference.

“The SEC has always been a conference where everybody shared equally and everybody had the same voice,” Loftin said. “That wasn’t always the case in the Big 12 or before it, the Southwest Conference. We find this to be the way to achieve long-term stability. The SEC is an old conference and it’s going to be around a long time longer.”

This is the second time Texas A&M women’s basketball coach Gary Blair has been part of a transition to the SEC. He was the Arkansas coach for 10 years, beginning in 1993, when the Razorbacks were new to the SEC.

“There’s not a team in the country that could come in and dominate the SEC because the league is so strong in every sport,” Blair said. “You try to come in and blend in and be in the upper echelon of the SEC in every sport.”

Pinkel said he is bracing for the challenge at Missouri.

“People ask me about the SEC. I just say they have a lot of great teams,” Pinkel said. “It’s like the NFL, you have to play your best every week and be able to finish games if you want to win. I think no one could argue, no coach in America could argue that.

“I understand everyone is going to want to watch how A&M and Missouri do, coming from the Big 12 into this league. My big thing, when you’re new like we are, you’ve got to earn respect. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Missouri’s season ends with 11-3 loss to Louisville

TUCSON, Ariz. — Ty Young drove in four runs as Louisville eliminated Missouri in the Tucson Regional on Sunday night with an 11-3 victory.

The Tigers (33-28) pounded 11 hits, led by Scott Sommerfeld who went 2-for-3 with an RBI, but couldn’t put together a serious threat.

The Cardinals (41-21) scored three runs in the first inning, and pulled away with three runs in the sixth.

Missouri played its final contest as a member of the Big 12. The Tigers will move to the Southeastern Conference next month.

Missouri was the No. 4 seed in the four-team regional tournament, having won a spot by winning the Big 12 tournament. For their three regional games the Tigers were outscored 28-12.

For the season, Missouri’s hits leaders (more than 50 games) were Sommerfeld (.312), Blake Brown (.302) and Conner Mach (.291).

Pitching leaders based on ERA (more than 30 innings pitched) were Jeff Emens (2.71), Dusty Ross (3.00) and Jake Walsh (3.44).

Mizzou baseball beats Texas to advance in Big 12 tournament

By the Associated Press

Rob Zastryzny

Rob Zastryzny

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Rob Zastryzny held Texas to five hits over 8 1-3 innings and Missouri broke open the game with a four-run fourth in a 5-0 win over Texas at the Big 12 tournament Wednesday night.

No. 6 seed Missouri (29-26) plays No. 2 Texas A&M on Thursday night. No. 3 Texas (30-21) plays No. 7 Kansas in an elimination game in the afternoon.

Zastryzny (5-5) struck out three and walked none before Dusty Ross came on to get the last two outs. Texas starter Corey Knebel (4-5) gave up nine hits in 4 1-3 innings and was charged with all five Missouri runs.

Blake Brown hit a two-run double and scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0 in the fourth.

Only two Texas runners made it past first base as the Longhorns were shut out for the second time in three games.

Recent trends may threaten diversity in college coaching 


By David Brandt, Associated Press

Missouri’s men’s basketball coach Frank Haith is one of the SEC’s seven African-American basketball coaches.

College basketball has long been dominated by African-Americans on the court. The same can’t be said for the sidelines.

And the numbers of minority coaches aren’t getting much better — they’re stagnant or even declining at the Division I level.

George Mason coach Paul Hewitt — who also coached at Georgia Tech for 11 seasons, leading the Yellow Jackets to a Final Four in 2004 — said “the marketplace for coaches is generally fair”, but worries that a few recent trends are hurting minority candidates.

“It seems we’re sometimes dealing with the law of unintended consequences,” Hewitt said. “I don’t think any one thing is causing the problem, but some of the recent trends in the sport could make things more difficult.”

The latest Race and Gender report card released in 2010 by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport showed that 21 percent of coaches in Division I men’s basketball were African-Americans, down from the all-time high of 25.2 percent during the 2005-06 season. That’s much lower than the numbers on the court — nearly 61 percent of Division I players were African-American.

The study is directed by Richard Lapchick, who has been studying minority hiring trends in sports for decades. He gives college basketball an A-minus grade for its hiring practices — thanks to the relatively strong numbers compared to other sports — but says the declining minority numbers are a major cause for future concern.

Hewitt pointed to two issues in particular. One is the popularity of professional search firms, which often help big-name schools pinpoint talented coaches. The other is the rising stigma that surrounds coaches who are trying to climb into the college game out of AAU basketball or the high school ranks.

Several high-profile NCAA scandals have centered around the sometimes-seedy underworld of amateur basketball, but Hewitt said a few sensational cases have put a stain on a legitimate way for young African-American coaches to get into the college game.

“That’s how I came up in 1989 — working at camps at Syracuse and Georgetown and getting my name out there to coaches,” Hewitt said. “I didn’t play Division I basketball, and to get my name out there I had to market myself. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

“As far as the search firms, it just adds another variable that’s an unknown. Who do they know? Is diversity a priority?”

A surprising conference is bucking the downward trend.

The Southeastern Conference — which includes schools in the deep South like Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina — is the only one of the six major BCS conferences that will have a majority of minority coaches next season in men’s basketball when the league expands to 14 teams after adding Texas A&M and Missouri.

The SEC’s current coaching demographics are:

• Seven African-American coaches, including Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Auburn’s Tony Barbee, Arkansas’ Mike Anderson, LSU’s Johnny Jones, Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin, Missouri’s Frank Haith and Mississippi State’s Rick Ray.

• One Hispanic coach, South Carolina’s Frank Martin.

• Six white coaches: Kentucky’s John Calipari, Florida’s Billy Donovan, Georgia’s Mark Fox, Mississippi’s Andy Kennedy, Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings and Texas A&M’s Billy Kennedy.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson — an African-American coaching pioneer who led the Hoyas to success in the 1970s, 80s and 90s — isn’t surprised by the SEC numbers.

“It doesn’t surprise me that you’re seeing those numbers in the SEC — not at all,” Thompson said. “I never bought into that crap that the deep South is worse than the North. The North has always profited from that perception and it’s totally incorrect … In the South, there are certainly problems, but at least people are more conscious of those problems.”

The other five major BCS conferences have just 11 African-American coaches combined.

“It’s a point of pride for us,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “We view our league as one of opportunity. We also believe that diversity makes you stronger.”

When Slive took over as the SEC’s commissioner in 2002, the league had never had a minority head football coach. Next fall, there will be three: Joker Phillips Kentucky, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.

Combined with the basketball numbers, 11 out of the league’s 28 most visible coaches (39.3 percent) will be minorities. The numbers aren’t perfect, but they certainly represent progress for a conference in an area of the country that’s long struggled with racial tension.

Slive said the transformation has been due to consistently pushing racial diversity within the conference. The SEC has distributed a minority database of assistant football coaches to league schools in nine of the past 10 years, hoping to educate schools on potential head coaching candidates.

“In light of the landscape, it’s a very positive development,” said Floyd Keith, the executive director of the Black Coaches and Administrators.

The rest of the country generally hasn’t kept pace.

Keith said the stagnation is unexpected and disappointing. He said the early success with hiring African-Americans in men’s basketball might have given a false sense that equality had been achieved.

The SEC’s coaching demographics are one of the few that come closer to mirroring the players on the court, but numbers can change quickly.

As recently as the 2008-09 season, the ACC had seven black coaches in basketball (Hewitt was one of them). Last year there was just one – Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton. Virginia Tech recently hired James Johnson.

ACC Commissioner Jack Swofford said he was proud of the league’s diversity in 2009 and is confident schools will continue to make good hiring decisions.

“Hopefully there’s an environment created in this league that’s very open and accepting,” Swofford said. “But really, the institutions are the ones that make the decisions in hiring the right people that fit their situations best, and obviously over the years, they’ve had the insight and the acceptance to hire the best person.”

Thompson said he believes the “atmosphere is better” for African-American coaches in the hiring process, and that there’s very few administrators who would discount a candidate because of race. But the bottom line sometimes stands in the way of equality.

“The business is so cut-throat,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to win or you’re fired — black or white. It’s just a tough situation to be in when (African-Americans) started the race late. It’s not going fix itself overnight.”

A flurry of offseason hires gave the SEC its current racial makeup.

South Carolina grabbed Martin from Kansas State. Mississippi State hired Ray after he was Clemson’s top assistant for two seasons. LSU’s fourth-year coach Trent Johnson left after the season for TCU, and the African-American coach was replaced by another African-American, former LSU player Johnny Jones.

Slive said he could tell progress has been made because the hires made news because of their ability — not race. Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin agreed.

“What’s interesting is that we didn’t even really realize we made a minority hire until it was completed,” Stricklin said. “Don’t get me wrong, I was aware Rick Ray was African-American, but it just never entered our thought process. We were looking for the best coach we could find and he fit all our criteria.”

All eight of the minority coaches in the SEC have been hired in the last three seasons – a testament to how volatile the coaching profession can be, no matter the color of skin.

“The landscape of the SEC has really changed,” Mississippi State’s Ray said. “You just look around here right here in the neighboring states and there’s Tony Barbee, Anthony Grant, and Johnny Jones. I think it’s a phenomenal thing for the SEC, because everyone has perceptions of the South, but they aren’t necessarily true.”

_____

AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this story.

Missouri beats Illinois State, one step closer to College World Series

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A juggled lineup lead to a better offensive game for Missouri Friday night in the regional softball tournament game against Illinois State. Chelsea Thomas pitched five scoreless innings to help Missouri beat the Redbirds 6-0.

Ashley Fleming and Kayla Kingsley picked up two hits each and Kelsea Roth picked up her seventh home run as the Tigers recorded nine hits, the most since their April 28 game against Iowa State.

DePaul beat Massachusetts 3-0 in the opening game. Missouri faces DePaul at 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by Massachusetts against Illinois State at 5:30 p.m. The loser of the Missouri-DePaul game facing the winner of the ISU-UMass game at 8 p.m.

New bowl game could renew Missouri-Kansas rivalry games

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southeastern and Big 12 conferences announced today a five-year agreement for the conference football champions to meet in a post-season bowl game on New Year’s day. The new bowl game will start after the 2014 season.

“A new January bowl tradition is born,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “This new game will provide a great match-up between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting post-season atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”

With Missouri and Kansas playing in these two conferences, this could be the only chance for them to play each other again.

“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” said acting Big 12 Conference Commissioner Chuck Neinas. “This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era to stage a post-season event. The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”

“I am very excited by the prospects for a game between our champion and the champion of the Southeastern Conference,” said in-coming Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

During the 14-year history of the Bowl Championship Series the Big 12 and SEC lead the nation with 11 seasons in which each conference has had at least one team ranked in the top four of the final BCS standings. Both conferences share the top spot all-time with 14 teams each that have finished in the top four of the final BCS Standings. The two conferences have combined for 16 appearances in the BCS National Championship Game, with the SEC playing nine times and the Big 12 making seven trips to the National Championship Game.

The two league champions have met twice in BCS bowl games since 1998, both in BCS National Championship Games. In 2010, Alabama defeated Texas, 37-21, and in 2009, Florida defeated Oklahoma, 24-14.

The champions of the two conferences will be in the matchup unless one or both are selected to play in the new four-team model to determine the national championship. Should that occur, another team(s) from the conference(s) would be selected for the game.

Specific details, including host site(s), will be announced at a later date.

Mizzou softball pulls out a win in the 10th inning, Thomas sets record

Missouri finishes second in the Big 12, earns No. 9 rank for regional tournament

Jenna Marston is congratulated by the Missouri softball team after getting the game-winning hit on Sunday, May 13, 2012.

Missouri will host its fourth consecutive NCAA Regional softball tournament beginning May 17. The Tigers will face the Illinois State Redbirds. DePaul and Massachusetts round out the regional bracket.

Sunday’s game

Jenna Marston saved the day the for Tigers and the game for Chelsea Thomas as her walk-off hit drove in Mackenzie Sykes for the game-winning run. It was Missouri’s only run of the game, coming with two outs in the 10th inning.

With the win Missouri locked second place in the Big 12 with a 17-7 record.

It was a big day for Thomas, who notched 13 strikeouts to set a new school record with 898. She passes Teresa Wilson, who set the previous record in 1983.

Missouri won all three games against Oklahoma State:

• Thomas threw a no hitter in Friday’s 4-0 win.
• Baily Erwin got the win and Thomas the save in Saturday’s 5-3. Ashley Fleming hit her 15th home run of the season, a new personal best.

Team awards

The team’s annual banquet was held Saturday night. Here are the honors that were handed out:

• Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year:  Corrin Genovese
• Hardest Worker: Mackenzie Sykes
• Best Pitcher: Chelsea Thomas
• Best Hitter and Most Valuable Player: Ashley Fleming

Mizzou’s key hitters, others, in hitting slump

by Gary Cotton

Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson knew early on that his team’s offensive consistency would be a challenge. After being swept in San Francisco in early March, he was focused on getting hits from Conner Mach, Blake Brown and Eric Garcia. After the team’s practice on March 1, Jamieson said:

“If these guys don’t hit then we won’t be able to score runs. It’s something we have to fix now, we know that they’re capable.”

The Tigers have proven they’re capable, but, after 50 games, they haven’t proven they can be consistent. The Tigers are in sixth place in the Big 12 with a record of 25-22. Although the team is registering its lowest hit totals all season, Jamieson stands by Brown, Garcia and Mach, saying consistency problems have plagued the entire team’s offense.

“Those three are key, but we have multiple guys struggling right now,” Jamieson said. “You can overcome one, maybe two guys struggling, but we have four, five and six struggling at the same time.” Below are hitting statistics for Brown, Mach, and Garcia through Sunday, May 6.
baseball hitting graphic

As of Monday, May 7, Scott Sommerfeld leads the team with a batting average of .306 and Dane Opel is second, with an average of .288.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Missouri State on Wednesday at 6 p.m., followed by a their last home stand, a three-game series against Memphis this weekend. They finish the season May 17, 18 and 19 at Kansas.

Mizzou baseball fails to complete rally in loss to Texas

Story by Gary Cotton

After dropping their last four games, the Tigers needed to make some changes. The usually playful dugout was stoic. The lineup was changed. Players even switched up their walk-up music.

While the Tigers made as many changes as they could, the results stayed the same. Missouri’s losing streak continued with a 6-4 loss to Texas.

The Tigers failed to record a hit through the first four innings, and failed to capitalize late with runners in scoring position.

Missouri broke out of the hitless streak in the fifth inning. A triple by Andreas Plackis to lead off the inning looked as if it may start a Missouri rally. Tigers fans let out relieved cheers when he slid into third base.

After the next two batters, Texas starting pitcher Parker French was forced to leave the game early with an injury. Texas had to reach into their bullpen sooner than expected.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity for Missouri to begin a comeback, but the Texas bullpen retired the next two batters and surrendered only one run after the leadoff triple.

Coach Tim Jamieson said the Longhorns did not lose much with the pitching change.

“You hate to see that. We’re going through that right now with Eric (Anderson),” Jamieson said. “Milner and Knebel were with Team USA last year. They’re two of the best players in the country so it wasn’t that much of a drop off.”

Missouri did find a way to stay in the game however. The Tigers scored twice in the sixth inning to bring the deficit to 5-3.

Eric Garcia led off the seventh inning with a double, and the Tigers had another opportunity for a rally.

But again the results did not change.

The Tigers only scored one run in the inning, and could not catch up with the Longhorns.

“We caught a few situations that we definitely took advantage of,” Garcia said. “We took advantage of their mistakes, but we couldn’t play as well as we needed to.”

Even though the Tigers never had the lead, Jamieson said he was happy with their fight.

“The thing I’m most happy about is that when we’re down five nothing we still found a way to get back in the game,” Jamieson said. “I felt like we did some good things tonight, which after the win at Tech, we really hadn’t done much.”

Missouri will face Texas in game two of the three game series tomorrow at Taylor Stadium at 1 p.m.

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