Dewey, Truman, and Conference Realignment: Or, A Look at Jumping the Gun



Everybody's seen this classic image, and most, I think, know the story behind it.  President Harry S. Truman, having ascended to his post following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, looked to have made one too many unpopular decisions in his first partial term.  It was assumed, as it had been throughout his career, that he was an uneducated yokel who had gotten to where he was through a combination of questionable ties and dumb luck, and that his decisions in dealing with issues like the postwar economic upheaval and the formation of Israel made him unlikely to succeed in the 1948 primaries, to say nothing of the presidential election itself.  But the game wasn't over for Harry Truman.

There is a useful parallel to be drawn here to our university's current straits.  In a time of upheaval, the leadership at Mizzou has made the unpopular decision to verbally commit to the Big 12, which looks to continue its historical pattern of Southern bias.  But the game isn't over for Mizzou, either.

Unacknowledged by the political commentators of the day, Truman's decisions were, in retrospect, a brilliant combination of right, timely, and politically expedient.  While many were unhappy with his actions in dealing with labor strikes and the economy, they ultimately proved to effectively preserve the American economy and lay the groundwork for what would ultimately become the postwar economic boom.  Similarly, while the creation of the nation of Israel was (and remains) highly controversial, it represented for Truman a rare confluence of humanitarian concern and political fundraising, as it attracted a number of wealthy donors to his campaign, like Abraham Feinberg, who donated a whopping $100,000 to Truman's campaign and worked to gather yet more support from like-minded individuals.  These donations enabled Truman to fund his fabled Whistle-stop Tour and ultimately to reclaim the White House.

It is, at this stage, much too soon to determine whether Mizzou's brass have made the right call here.  There is, however, enough information available to encourage a thoughtful fan to withhold judgment for now.  Yes, the University of Missouri is likely to take a great deal of undeserved flak for beginning this series of events, and yes, even if the money in the new deal improves, all signs indicate that Missouri will receive less benefit than the South powers, who will continue to reap an unfair portion of the new funds.  But all is not yet lost.

While Mike Alden has undoubtedly been imperfect in his efforts as Mizzou's Athletic Director, it is under his purview that Missouri's long-dormant football program has returned to relevance, and, yes, even dominance.  His hiring of Mike Anderson rescued a flagging basketball program from the depths of infraction-causing incompetence, and his willingness to stand by Anderson through trials like the incident at Club Athena gave our coach enough time to put together the program that we are all now proud of; a program that can lose a top recruit to eligibility problems without a significant loss of confidence.

Furthermore, the issue of conference realignment is far from decided, even for this round.  Until any sort of penalty is assigned to schools who leave what is left of the Big 12, all of the schools involved retain the option to leave.  While we may not have gotten where we had hoped in this round, the continued inequities of the Big 12 system almost guarantee that this issue is not yet resolved.  And, as many more well-informed commentators than I have noted, all we can do in the interim is pay our coaches at the level needed to retain them, improve our facilities, and, above all, keep winning.  The Missouri Tigers have by no means reached their ceiling in the Big 12.

So yes, for now, the news looks bad.  But some day soon, we may be able to wake up and lift those misguided or malicious headlines high with a smile on our face, because, in spite of the bets laid to the contrary, we won.

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