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Athletics helped get Missouri into this mess, and athletics could help Missouri get out of it

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Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

Missouri v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Poor public relations plus poor leadership equals hard times. That’s basically what Mizzou as an entire university is dealing with at the moment.

Amid budget cuts and an anticipated 7.4 percent drop in enrollment, leaders at the University of Missouri-Columbia are expecting to trim about 400 positions.

Most of the jobs would be cut through attrition, with fewer than 100 layoffs projected. Interim Mizzou chancellor Garnett Stokes announced the budget details at a campus forum Monday.

Mizzou has already said it is expecting its smallest freshman class in two decades. The enrollment drop discussed Monday is the first estimate pertaining to the school’s entire enrollment. [...]

At the forum, leaders pointed to the enrollment drop partly as fallout from the declining number of high school graduates across the region, as well as ongoing “public perception concerns” since the fall of 2015 when protests that centered on issues of race led to two top leaders’ resigning.

Now, I would love to find out exactly who isn’t coming to Mizzou anymore as a result of the 2015 unrest. Hopefully someone is looking into the demographics of that because the data could tell quite a few different stories on that one, and I honestly don’t know what I expect the data to say. But I digress.

Mizzou athletic director JIm Sterk spoke at a second public forum on Tuesday.

During a Monday budget forum, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Pelema Morrice said “the vast majority of our undergraduate enrollment concerns” are caused by public perception. That can be traced to the demonstrations and their aftermath.

Just as the football team helped draw attention to the protests, athletics can be part of the solution, Stokes and Sterk said.

Stokes called athletics “one of the windows into Mizzou.” Sterk said winning will help bring students back.

“We want to be visible and I think we can really help the university come back from this lull in admissions,” Sterk said. “If we’re successful, I think overall it helps the university’s overall impression in the state.”

(Now, it’s definitely important to highlight that the football protests indeed drew attention to the issues and didn’t cause them, of course.)

Relying on the Flutie Effect (a.k.a. the 2007 Mizzou effect) to save your school probably isn’t the best plan, but a happy football (or basketball!) run this coming year wouldn’t hurt. Let’s try it. And there might be reason for optimism on the gridiron.

Plus, hey, collecting more than $700K from the Mack Rhoades buyout doesn’t hurt anything either.

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