The hope and promise of anticipation before the season withered away with each back-breaking turnover and extended run the Missouri Tigers gave up to the Wyoming Cowboys more than a mile above sea level to open the season.
The loss was disappointing, but more than anything, it killed the momentum and goodwill the program had built up during the offseason.
Barry Odom has had a rocky and pot-filled start to his head coaching career. Some of it was his doing, and some it wasn’t. But he’s largely built the Tigers up to a point where he has a legitimately good top 25-level team. Missouri has played that way for... most of this season.
Mizzou is 15th in SP+ and 11th in defense, which is just one spot behind Kirby Smart’sTop 10 defense at Georgia. The offense has been a little inconsistent, but sits just a few spots behind Oregon and future first-round Quarterback Justin Herbert, which certainly isn’t terrible company.
Considering the road up — with Missouri going from 4-8 to 8-5 in three years — now they’re perched at 3-1 with a schedule which could realistically get them to 9 or 10 wins. They have an experienced, charismatic quarterback, and an exciting defense... and fairly meager fan support.
With the completion of the South End Zone project, the capacity sits at around 65,000 fans.
Which by power conference standards is pretty middle of the road, and would rank 10th in the SEC. And yet Mizzou has trouble filling the stadium.
So my question is simple? What gives?
I understand no program or franchise in any sports league is adverse to loss of attendance when there’s losing. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Yankees or Crimson Tide or Manchester United. If you lose enough, the folks stop showing up. And Missouri went through some rocky seasons from 2015 through 2017. They struggled to make a bowl and lost pretty badly to Texas. The up and down nature of Odom’s teams left enough disappointment through the early years, but there haven’t been that many teams who have performed better than the Tigers since the start of the 2018 season. Since the middle of the 2017 season, they’re 17-7.
A 70% win percentage is really good, but there still isn’t the level of buy-in from fans.
From the stadium to our own traffic, interest in this team just seems okay. So I’ll return to the question... what gives?
What Barry Odom wants to build is a culture and a team which rivals programs like Georgia and Florida in the SEC East. He wants the stadium at capacity and the expectation of winning and winning big each and every season. But at some point there will need to be full-on investment from the fans.
I’m not talking about the people who read this site with regularity. I appreciate all 38 of you.
I am talking to the more casual fan, the person who will occasionally type “mizzou football” into google and happen across us talking about the latest recruit from texas and how he’ll fit into the depth chart in three years.
When will those fans buy in on a more consistent basis and fill the stadium to capacity for every game? Not just when it’s a top flight opponent in a non-turkey hunting season week?
This Mizzou team is really good, and they’re fun to watch. So tell your friends!