Welcome back to the ‘Fast Lane.’
Due to some unforeseen circumstances we’re going to have to bypass the one exit that talked about the whole college conference realignment. So let’s skip right to the chase and talk about the University of Kentucky’s new SEC east rival; the University of Missouri or Mizzou as it’s more commonly known.
As most of you know I am an Alum from Mizzou and I have a lot of pride in the University I went to. I’m rather excited to be jumping into such a power house sports conference that’s not run by one University. Not naming names, but thanks to a major university in the Big 12 conference Mizzou was willing to leave behind one of college’s greatest rivalry to seek a better home in the SEC.
Yes I will miss Mizzou taking on the University of Kansas in the annual Border War games. Yes I will miss the thrill I get when Mizzou would rise up and take down the powerhouse programs in the Big 12 such as Texas, Oklahoma, and before they bolted for the Big Ten, Nebraska.
But, I’m just as excited to see Mizzou make some new rivals in the SEC.
They will be joining the SEC east with UK, Vanderbilt, University of Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Yes this move was heavily influenced by money and a lot of people will only look at the move in the football season.
So let’s see what Mizzou will be bringing to the table in football before we look at the other sports.
The University of Missouri Tigers will be bringing a football team that has seen some recent success with their crowning moment when they rose to #1 in 2007. They brought coach Gary Pinkel into the program in 2000 where the once proud Tigers were more or less moribund. Pinkel built a power house program in the Mid-American Conference at Toledo before coming over to Missouri and the Big 12. Having a scattering of success in his first four years, there were rumblings of potentially firing him and giving up on him.
But in 2005 the Tigers took off.
In 2005-2010 the Tigers finished first or second in the Big 12 North before falling off just a bit last season. In that time period the Tigers got to play future SEC rivals in South Carolina, and Arkansas and won both bowl games. Under Gary Pinkel compiled a 85-54 record while sending numerous Tigers off to the NFL. Phildelphia Eagles wide-out Jeremy Maclin, Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, Jackonsville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert as well as countless others.
With a load of returning talent, and a highly touted recruiting class the Tigers could potentially be coming into SEC football at the best possible time.
With football being king in the SEC, a lot of people may overlook basketball season, but not here in Kentucky. With their recent national title the University of Kentucky Wildcats will be looking for some new challenges and Mizzou will be more than happy to oblige them.
Mizzou basketball was a NCAA regular and a power house in the Big Eight conference under legendary hall of fame coach Norm Stewart. Despite never getting to the Final Four, the Tigers of Missoui were always in the mix at the end of the season.
Then came coach Quin Snyder. The Tigers passed on the two coaches who were in last season’s National Title game in UK’s John Calipari, and KU’s Bill Self and hired the up and coming Duke assistant Snyder. Snyder had some early success with the Tigers and endeared himself to the fan base by consistently knocking off arch rival Kansas.
But scandals and many allegations off the court chased Snyder from the University. When he left, the Tigers saw some of their darkest basketball hours as coach Michael Anderson was hired to restore the program to its former glory. The Tigers regained that glory under Anderson before he left for the same position at University of Arkansas. Then Frankn Haith was hired and he guided the Tigers to unprecedented success this past season. Haith even had the faithful believing that this was the year that the Tigers finally got to the Final Four. But Norfolk State ended that dream before it even got off the ground in the huge 15 seed over 2 seed upset.
The Tigers will be loaded with talent on their roster despite losing a lot of talent that helped get the Tigers to that cusp. With a lot of teams in the SEC going through slight transitions the Tigers should step right in and compete immediately against UK for a chance at a SEC title.
Mizzou will also bring to the SEC a baseball program that produced talents like Texas Rangers Ian Kinsler, Kansas City Royals Aaron Crow, and Detroit Tigers Max Scherzer. Hitting a stretch of tough luck the baseball team will be looking to continue their history of success in the SEC. The Tigers will also bring a powerhouse softball team to the conference. They have reached the Women’s college World Series two of the past three seasons. And with their star pitcher returning next season and 10 freshman that contributed a lot of innings last season coming back the Tigers will jump right to the top of the SEC in softball.
The Tigers will be bringing all their sports programs into the SEC and just like an ad said; ‘They say you rise to the level of your competition. That playing great teams will only make you better. We’re counting on it.’ The Tigers and their fans have fully embraced the move.
Now the question remains, is the SEC ready for the Tigers of Missouri?
Friday will be my stop in the Fast Lane. It’s been a fun ride, but I turn over the Fast Lane to the next person who is willing to guide their way down it.