What's the best approach: Aiming for greatness in one big sport or aiming for quality in all?

Bill Connelly

Culled from a Q&A in today's links post.

Q: Would Mizzou be better off choosing either football or basketball as its primary focus and put most of its efforts, coach funding, facility upgrades, and so on toward pushing that program to the top?

The reason I ask this is that, even with our recent success in both of those sports and upgrades in facilities, we still seem to have a perception problem around the country. We saw with the last basketball coach search that we weren’t able to attract any big name coaches (at least none that I saw seriously consider the position [does Matt Painter count?] – even Tubby Smith stuck with Minnesota rather than come to Missouri, supposedly). We still have trouble landing big name, high star recruits (with obvious exceptions). In general, it seems like we may have plateau’d, barring a miracle type season. Most schools are known as either a basketball school or a football school, so are we spreading ourselves too thin by trying to be both without the historical precedence to back that assertion up?

A: I think what the AD has done in the past 10-15 seasons is nothing short of amazing, and I don't think they receive nearly enough credit for it.

While this will be mostly about Mike Alden, Joe Castiglione, his predecessor, deserves credit as well. But considering where this department was in terms of annual budget, the fact is that Mizzou has KEPT all of its sports -- where programs with more money have cut some. So considering Mizzou not only kept them all, but managed to grow them to where we are this is a top-40 all-around Athletic Department from a Sears/Learfield Cup standpoint. Castiglione was able to get the early facility upgrades in order and made some smart hires on his way out, and Alden kept that going.

I think our path has been laid out nicely in front of us. We are a well-rounded department that now will see a pretty staggering influx of resources (read: cash) to where all sports will be able to continue to grow. Swimming already has one of the top facilities in the country and is top-20 on both side. Baseball and softball are on their way from a facility upgrade, and we know about the current or fairly recent success there. I think it is a pretty safe assumption that a Hearnes replacement will be coming, which will help volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics (though they just received a new training facility), and some of the track programs, which may also be helped depending on decisions regarding a new indoor football practice facility. Tennis and golf have either just received or are in the process of getting upgraded as well. I would also imagine enhancements to Walton Stadium for soccer will not be far behind considering the relative age of the facility (especially once the softball stadium is rendered obsolete).

Yes, this may only allow us to ascend marginally in the SEC because the influx of resources will be the same, but we will continue to ascend nationally.

As it pertains to the major sports, I don't think we will be slouches from a resource standpoint should we need to make a change in one of the two major programs. Obviously basketball has an impressive of a facility as there is, and football continues to receive the lion-share of the upgrade dollars. Added to that, and not to start a discussion about earning salary, but our football head coach is among the highest paid in the land. Yes, we are likely in need of additional funding for the assistant staff, but again, I believe that would be available should it need to be, especially as the money starts to come in from the east-side upgrades.

Will this happen overnight, or fast enough for some? Not likely, simply because the AD has been very careful not to mortgage the future for the sake of the present. While I imagine some may argue the merit of that choice, I think it has been a good one when you consider where we came from and what appears to be our path ahead of us. But perhaps the additional resources will allow Alden to be more proactive than he has been in the past when it comes to making a coaching change. Recently, it was fairly widely believed that Cindy Stein was retained a year or two longer than she might have deserved due to the size of her contract buy-out. Heck, just last week some of the same points have been mentioned when it comes to the retention of Tim Jamieson, who is one year through a three-year deal. Once the SECN fully matures and the exit debt is fully paid back, additional options may be afforded to Alden if and when this should come up. But I believe you can continue to rely on Mike Alden and Tim Hickman (finance) to continue to operate within their (ever-expanding) budget to grow at a rate which would not put them into a situation like Tennessee or others who are deep in the red.

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