It was back to winter last weekend but high school basketball fans had exciting basketball to watch inside at the state tournament. College basketball fans also had a weekend full of fun.
I got to take in three days of great college basketball. The semifinal games of the Big 12 Tournament proved to be interesting. Iowa State showed why their fans love coming to Kansas City to play in the Big 12. They won their third Big 12 Title in the last four years.
If you love the college game, you need to attend an Iowa State pep rally down at the Power & Light District. Even if you are not an Iowa State guy they will accept anyone who likes a good time. It is always great fun to watch the Cyclone fans get fired up. The Big 12 Tournament is a happening for Iowa State fans. They keep Kansas City rocking the three days of the tournament.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II, played host to the NCAA regional for the first time in school history. The Bearcats, who feature local products Justin Pitts (Blue Springs South), D’Vante Mosby (Fort Osage) and Kirk Finley (Blue Springs), are having had the best basketball season in school history and have advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. The crowds and games created an exciting atmosphere all weekend.
On a negative note, MU announced that they had fired head basketball coach Kim Anderson. The Missouri favorite son could change the negative culture of the program in many ways but was unable to win enough games to keep the fans in their seats.
A book could probably be written about the struggles of the MU athletic program over the years. About three-fourths of my closest friends are diehard Tiger fans. I respect their loyalty to their school, but it is way past time for MU fans to look at the hard truth about where the athletic program stands.
The Missouri football team has not won a conference championship since 1969 while still in the Big 8 Conference and they were co-champs that year with Dan Devine as coach. That was 48 years ago! They also won the Big 12 North Division in 2007, 2008 and 2010 but Gary Pinkel’s team lost the conference championship games. In 2013 and 2014 they won the SEC East division but Coach Pinkel’s teams lost both conference championship games.
In men’s basketball, the Tigers have never reached the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. Norm Stewart came close a couple of times but was not able to get over the hump. MU has had success in other sports such as softball, baseball and wrestling but they still struggle to be one of the top programs in any sport.
These are difficult facts to understand considering the great facilities for all their programs. It is a conference school located right in the middle of the state between two big metropolitan cities of St. Louis and Kansas City. It is also close to recruiting hotbeds of Chicago and Memphis and should also be able to recruit quality players from Texas. Why would it have struggled to keep pace in a winning program? This year the Tiger football recruiting class only had one player from the state of Missouri.
A factor has certainly been that the university has had more than its share of controversies in the last couple of years. The school has had to climb out of the crater created by those controversies. But those controversies have come to the surface only during the past five years. How do you explain the 48 years without a football conference title and never a trip to the Final Four?
The University of Missouri is a top-notch school with all the tools to be a great program but they are missing something. What is MU’s identity?
Leadership is a key ingredient – not only from the coaches but more importantly from the administration. Most of my good MU friends blame the coaches, but the problems are much deeper. Kim Anderson never had a chance to turn the program around. He was not aware of the minefields left behind by form MU basketball coaches. Frank Haith should never have been let back into the state of Missouri.
Missouri residents (even NWMSU alumnus) want the Missouri Tigers to have top programs. The University of Missouri has too many positive assets to not have a successful athletic program. The leadership at MU came up with a great hire in California’s Cuonzo Martin to lead the program. It does not matter if they hire the next John Wooden. It is time for them to step up and totally support the new coach. Everyone in the boat needs to row in the same direction. Until that happens MU can do all the facility improvements in the world but they will still be struggle to find their IDENTITY.
• Why is the World Baseball Classic such a big deal? It is a waste of time for major league teams in the thick of preparing for the baseball season. It risks injuries to players like that of Salvador Perez. Guys are going to get hurt but it should be because they are playing for their own team. It is hard to find anyone interested in what team won the last World Baseball Classic!
• My quote of the week come from legendary actor Jimmy Stewart: “You have to develop a style that suits you to pursue it, not just develop a bag of tricks. Always be yourself.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org