The last few years have shown that the worst thing to happen to a football program isn’t losses or inconsistent play.
Missouri’s football program has been saddled with apathy over that time The attendance issues and a department deficit show that. Missouri’s doesn’t have a real, honest-to-God rival in the SEC; while the Tigers have certainly shown they belong in the nation’s premier conference, it’s doesn’t mean it’s been fun.
The NCAA is now a unifying force for Missouri football (and baseball and softball). The NCAA united a fractured fan base when it handed down ridiculous, hypocritical sanctions for infractions that, as an NCAA spokesperson made clear, stemmed from a tutor that acted on her own.
The shock of those sanctions had to hit Jim Sterk and Missouri leadership even harder than it hit the fan base during mid-morning Thursday. But after the initial shock has worn off — to some degree anyway — we’re left with an intensifying anger emanating out of mid-Missouri and throughout Mizzou fans everywhere.
The sanctions just united a fan base that’s been increasingly fractured over the last few years. Finally, Missouri has a new, real rival.
It’s the NCAA.
The NCAA didn’t just hit Missouri with a bowl ban and with probation — it hurt Missouri with draconian recruiting sanctions when no recruiting violations occurred. While the release will say that these punishments only affect the football program from the 2019-2020 academic year, that’s not the case.
The NCAA uses these punishments to affect a program for years down the line.
We already saw what one or two poor recruiting classes can do to a program. The 2015 and 2016 seasons were evidence of that. Now, Missouri will be approaching the 2020 recruiting cycle with one hand tied behind its back.
Beyond appealing the sanctions — and Missouri has already said it will do just that, mincing no words in that statement — what should happen now?
Former Missouri basketball player Kim English coined the phrase “Reconciled by winning” when addressing the departure of then-head coach Mike Anderson. It’s time for Missouri football to do the same thing.
Kelly Bryant is staying. In all likelihood, Missouri won’t see an exodus of senior players. Missouri still should have the talent (and the schedule) to win nine or ten games. Should the bowl ban stick, Missouri won’t have the ability to play in the SEC Championship game, in addition to a bowl game.
Burn it all down. Go after the NCAA on and off the field. Jim Sterk and Missouri’s administration (and legal counsel) appear set to do the off-the-field part. Now, make life an embarrassment for the NCAA on the field. Win, and keep winning. Make sure the 2019 SEC season ends up with an asterisk.
Be the more-likeable UCF. You have the support of everyone (outside of Lawrence) in 2019. Hating the NCAA is the overlapping portion on the Venn diagram of the United States.
You can be America’s team in 2019 by winning. Go undefeated. Claim a national title. Who cares? The NCAA shows it doesn’t care about its member institutions, so why should you care about them?
Make this a part of Missouri lore. That would be quintessential Missouri, after all. A brilliant underdog story with the tragic ending. The players on this team would become legends.
Embrace the narrative. Make it real awkward for everyone outside of Columbia.
Burn it all down by winning.