Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mizzou Sanity Roundtable, Week 2 (Part Two)

As promised, here is Part 2 of the Longest Roundtable Ever. We pick up where we left off...as our heroes were looking for another question to discuss...and itching for a fight...

ZouDave: Sure, I'll ask a question:

What does everyone think about the lack of excitement in our upcoming home non-conference games? I don't mean just this year (as I think our non-con this year is fine, aside from the fact that the 2 best games aren't in Columbia), but looking forward to next year and beyond we aren't seeing teams worth talking about scheduled to come to Columbia. Thoughts?
The Boy: Honestly, I think the Ath Dept was pinned in a bit for 2008 by having the KU game in KC. They had to have six home games (pretty sure we'd have all revolted if we were to only get 5 games at Faurot in a 12-game schedule), and with the Illinois game already locked down, they had to find three home games to fill the schedule. Enter SEMO, Nevada, and Buffalo. As a whole, I choose to believe that we're still going to be aiming for a 4-game non-conference stretch of Illinois, other major conference team ( i.e. Ole Miss), mid-major team (i.e. W'ern Michigan, Nevada), and 1-AA team, but I guess that won't always work out, especially with the 'KU in KC' kink. I have to figure they could have found somebody better than Buffalo, but...whatever.

That said, as Atch pointed out the other day...ewww. 2008 is a gruesome home schedule (SEMO, Nevada, Buffalo, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Kansas State), though it obviously offers us a decent opportunity to go 6-0 at home...which is nice, I guess.

The Beef: I was it the midst of typing the same response, but The Boy beat me to it.

In the end, I also don’t understand the notion of not coming to a game because of the opponent. It might just be me, but I have gone, go, and will continue to go no matter who we play. We made that commitment and that is what we do. Now, I can understand when things come up, but I am not so sure our fans can have it both ways. We cannot not show up for games, and then bitch about the opponents. We need to start filling Faurot, and let’s be honest, there are NOT 68K mizzou football fans out there….there are barely 62-63 based on attendance trends I have seen. And honestly, if people are saying they don’t go to games because they don’t like the opponents, well….that does not sit well with me. Like it or not, money makes the world go round and we cannot afford to have crowds of 50K people just because our fans don’t like who we are playing, but at the same time, demand more from our team and our schedule. The excuse rings hollow with me.
Doug: The same issue that faces Missouri next year is facing KU this year. With moving the MU game to Arrowhead, the merchants in Lawrence demanded six games for the year. So, that was partly the reason KU had to schedule a couple of patsy home games to make up for the loss of the Missouri game. However, I think KU fans are just excited to have four almost "guaranteed" wins to begin the season.

The Boy: We do seem to make a lot of excuses for our fans. "It was too hot." "It was too cold." "The forecast said there was a 40% chance of showers." "(fill in team) sucks." "The Cards won the World Series last night." Well guess what...Michigan might go like 4-8 this year, and they'll still probably draw 100K for every game. We do probably have to come to grips with the fact that our fan base is as fickle as they come. Part of that is geographical--neither KC nor StL is a one-team town obviously, and they definitely seem to care as much or more about their pro teams as their college teams, but still...you could find tons of examples like that with other states/schools. I guess the only thing that will even begin to solve the problem would be quite a few big seasons in a row, but...well...if the fans were to pack the stadium every game and actually give us something of a homefield advantage, those big seasons might come a bit easier. And besides that, we're really not drawing too terribly much better than we were in the 1999-2001 dark years, and we've won a decent amount lately...

But hey...at least we're not Kansas!
ZouDave: I will certainly echo the sentiments of Seth earlier, because when I have a chance to go to a Mizzou home game I take the opportunity. I can't say the same for road games, much as I would like to, but this will now be the 3rd season I've had season tickets and I'm not going to miss any games. My dad has missed 1 game of each season (including this one) but always with good reasons, never because of who we were playing or weather or anything like that.

Back to the point...I will go to Mizzou home games regardless of who we are playing. But, I am disappointed with our 2008 schedule and I find it hard to believe that we couldn't have found an opponent comparable to Ole Miss to start another home-and-home with and our home game would be in 2008. I don't know if Ole Miss was available or interested again, but that certainly seems like a team our fans would like to continue seeing. If there's any truth at all to the Georgia rumors and that one of the reasons the AD said "not interested" was because it would have meant going on the road in 2009 with a new QB, well that's just horrible. If that is indeed their stance, and it wasn't a direct quote from Mike DeArmond but it appeared to be a summation from talks with one of Alden's employees, then we can probably expect a non-con like 2008 in 2010 and beyond because they're going to want to protect our new QB. Terrible, terrible mindset and if that's true then that's the kind of thing that will keep this program from growing. I know you don't want to go out and schedule murderer's row, even when you have a senior QB, but at this point we really shouldn't shy away from a series with anyone in the country no matter what our situation at QB is expected to be. The 2009 home schedule is really only saved by Nebraska and Texas, because Bowling Green, SMU, Baylor and Iowa State are just as bad as 2008's games. I guess there's always 2010 (the year we make contact...with good teams at home) because we have Colorado, Oklahoma, K-State and kansas and still have 2 non-con games to schedule. Bring on Vandy and Duke!

The kudos, I guess, I can give Mizzou for 2009 is that we don't have a 1AA school on the schedule. Outside of Illinois, we don't have anyone really, but at least we're playing four 1A teams.

And is it pretty much a given that the season ticket package next year is going to include the ku game at Arrowhead? I'm expecting it, just want to be ready.

The Beef: I think also part of this problem centered around the fact that the type of football series we are looking for against a big name opponent is often signed years in advance, and the change in the kU game happened only recently, and given the AD knows they HAVE to have six home games, we were not left with my options.

Just food for thought on the matter.
Michael Atchison: With all due respect, BEEF, I hope the athletic department doesn’t think along the same lines. I’ve got a million different entertainment options, and college football isn’t inherently better than any of them. And frankly, though I’m there each week, going to a game in Columbia is a bit of a pain in the ass. I load up the family in the car, drive four hours round trip, and endure sunburn, frostbite, downpours and the complaints of small children. It’s a lot easier to get motivated to make the effort when a conference foe or an SEC team is the opponent, but when Buffalo comes to town (and really, three years ago, I didn’t know they had a program), I’m only going because it’s part of the ritual. And I don’t mind doing it once (or even twice) a season, but three is pushing the limit. It shapes up as little more than an exhibition. A game isn’t much good without drama, and that one’s got none.

Now think about the people who don’t have season tickets because it’s too big a strain on the budget, or because they can’t spare six full Saturdays, or whatever reason. But maybe they’re willing to buy tickets to a game or two a year. Those are the people who make a difference in the bottom line. There are 40,000 masochists who’ll be there no matter what. But for the casual fan who doesn’t live and breathe college football, he peruses the schedule and sees Southeast Missouri, Nevada and Buffalo, and his eyes glaze over. Those games are non-starters for single-game sales, and they’ve knocked him off the fence if he was mulling season tickets.

I also think it’s a mistake to attribute any particular motivation or characteristics to “the fans.” As reading Tigerboard after a game will prove, our fans don’t think or feel any one particular thing. You say we need to start filling Faurot. We’ll never do that by projecting to fans that it’s their obligation to pony up dollars for an uninspired product. It’s the athletic department’s job to make them want to come, not the fans job to come no matter what.

The Beef: See…but I do not completely buy that. I am not calling for total blind devotion here, but Missourians, I feel, too often fall-back to the moniker of “you have to Show Me” as some sort of god-given right to distrust something, or, and more practically, take way too long to come around to something. As The Boy pointed out, Michigan will likely have a losing record and draw. Penn State drew about the same for Florida International as they did for Notre Dame. Now, are we those programs? Oh god no. But the same thought process I am talking about is found in these examples. We need our fans to back this program more than they do and those teams will come. And yes, you can get into chicken vs. egg debate all we want, but to me, the notion of not coming to a game because of who we are playing is a ridiculous idea. And yes, before you ask it, I am more excited to see Nebraska than Buffalo, but not so much that the thought of not coming would enter my mind, and the fact it does, or any of the myriad of other fairly real reasons The Boy mentioned before, irks me somewhat and shows me where we fall short as a fanbase in some instances.
ZouDave: Just a quick search, and I see that Kentucky has only 11 games on their 2008 schedule right now and they've already got 6 home games that year. One of their open dates is 9/20, the date we're bringing in Buffalo.

I can't find their 2009 schedule, and ours is already done, but perhaps we could have contacted them to find out if they'd come to us in '08 and we could maybe return to them in '10? Obviously this is meaningless, because it's set already, but Kentucky certainly isn't a no-name opponent while at the same time isn't someone Missouri should be afraid of. That would be a pretty good matchup, and it's a border state which is never a bad thing.

The Beef: That’s all well and great….but I think we can all agree it does not come down to who WE want to play, but who other schools want to play as well. Because this opening exists does not mean it was not explored by one side or another. The circuit of AD’s is really a pretty small one when it comes to D-1 football, imagine sort of like a “want-ad” section of a newspaper. :-)
Zou Dave: Just using Kentucky as an example again, they already have their patsies that year in Akron and Temple. Again, I know I'm speaking totally in hypotheticals but I just don't see why either side would have shied away from that. I doubt it was ever brought up, which is fine I'm not going to pout about it. But it certainly would be a helluva lot better than Buffalo.

Michael Atchison: When you bring Michigan and Penn State into the discussion, you’re pulling in the statistical outliers. Enormous schools in enormous states with enormous stadiums and enormous traditions. In truth, we draw awfully well, especially given the past generation of history and the relatively small population within 75 miles of the stadium.

Last year, we drew on par with West Virginia, and we trailed only the very big boys (Texas, A&M, Nebraska and Oklahoma) in the Big 12. The base is pretty good. The challenge is to leverage the rest.

And I think you’re conflating the way you think things ought to be (everyone should come out no matter what) with the way things really are. And do you really think not coming to the game because of an opponent is a ridiculous idea? If so, I doubt you’ve ever been faced with whether to leave home at 4:00 on a Tuesday night to see the basketball team face Coppin State.
Doug: You know, after Quin Snyder left... it's nice to know MU fans still have something to argue about among themselves... incessantly.

The Boy: Heh...seriously...I apparently left work at the wrong time. And looking through this exchange...yeah, I have nothing to add. I can kind of excuse the fans for not wanting to attend some of these games, and I can kind of excuse the A.D. for making the decisions they made...it's just not that great a situation, but you know what? If we end up 9-3 or something in 2008, then I'll probably forget all about this debate. I'm a win whore.
Michael Atchison: Looking back, I’m just bummed that I inappropriately used the word “conflating.” You don’t get to use that word everyday, and it’s a little disheartening when you whiff.

And really, I just want to keep picking at BEEF until he tries to fight me in the parking lot this weekend. Though it wouldn’t be the first fight among Mizzou fans this year. My father in law saw one in the bathroom at the Ed Jones Dome. We have us some quality partisans.

The Boy: As far as I can tell, BEEF is 0-1 in parking lot tussles, so I like your chances. And we almost got caught directly in the middle of an MU-fan-on-MU-fan tussle in Bowling Green in 2002. Worst trip ever.
The Beef: You can doubt it all you want, but I’ve done it before….I’ve held season tickets for basketball while not living in Columbia, and made every single game while doing so.

I don’t even know what conflating means, no matter which way you used it!

You talk about leveraging the rest….I believe after 12 years, 5 bowl games and 2 different runs of success in there, those folks aren’t there. We don’t sell out a game unless someone else brings at least 6K fans to it. We’ve had Ohio State come into town when we were good and not sell out (unless the excuse of the early game was the excuse of the day that day). I have seen us play Clemson in front of less than 60 thousand. Ole Miss last year was not a great crowd. The opening of HUNTING SEASON kills our attendance, and that is during conference season. My point is, our fans have really shown no better turnout for good games or conference games than they have for most other games, NU and late 90’s KSU excluded.

And yes, with the difference in how basketball and football is televised (and NO need to get into that mess on one of these!) I think there IS a difference between Coppin State in basketball and Buffalo in football. There are three times as many basketball games at home than football games, and the chances of Buffalo/Mizzou football being televised are, needless to say, WAY less than the odds of a game with Coppin State being televised. If people cannot see a football game, and choose not to go to it because we aren’t playing someone good enough, that does trouble me. Again, for me, the comment should not be, “I don’t want to see them play Buffalo.” It should be, “I want to see the Tigers play.” Call it Polyanna all you want.

The Boy: Polyanna!!

And yes...it's probably not worthwhile to have a conversation with us about attending games...we're stupid. We drove 30 hours round trip in 2000 for a game (Clemson) we knew damn well we were going to lose by 50. And we had awful seats to boot! Granted, we didn't have jobs or kids...and we were still in school...but still. We're stupid.

(I'm not bragging about this, by the way...actually, if you ask my wife, this reveals a massive character flaw...I'm just sayin'.)

Obviously the best case scenario is, we win big for a couple of years (or, more honestly, 30 years) and Mizzou becomes a 'brand name'. You want to see them because they're Mizzou. That's what the Penn State's and Michigan's of the world are, and that's how they draw what they draw. Right now, Mizzou is just an entertainment option, and only wins (not big games or good schedules) will fix that.
Michael Atchison: I read that you’re going to post this exchange on Sanity. Should be a real ratings winner. If we could only get McLean Stevenson to chime in as the bumbling single father of two teenage girls, the triumph would be complete.

The Boy: I almost joked that we should get McLean Stevenson to do a Mizzou Exchange, but luckily I looked at his Wikipedia page first. Might be kind of difficult with that whole "died of cardiac arrest in 1996" thing...
The Beef: I thought he died over the Sea of Japan...
The Boy: Moment of silence, please.
Michael Atchison: Seriously, I think a roundtable tribute to McLean Stevenson would be more entertaining than Seth and me arguing over what is the appropriate level of fanaticism.

And I’m guessing that I’m the only one here who watched Hello Larry during its initial, glorious run.
Doug: Probably, but I've seen all of his M*A*S*H episodes on in repeats.
The Boy: safe to say, the post-worthy portion of the Roundtable is over...though you could debate whether a post-worthy portion has actually begun yet...
The Beef: Until someone tells me what conflate actually means, it ain’t over...
ZouDave: http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/conflate
The Beef: Sheesh...kind of a let down after all of that...