COLUMBIA — Missouri’s celebration arrived a little late, but the effect was just as sweet.
MU athletic director Mike Alden presented football coach Gary Pinkel and his team the Big 12 North trophy during a surprise presentation Thursday afternoon at Dan Devine Pavilion. The Tigers clinched their second consecutive division title on Saturday with a victory over Iowa State. Earlier in the day, Texas beat Kansas to allow Missouri a chance to earn a berth in the Big 12 championship game, set for Dec. 6 in Kansas City. Missouri will play either Texas Tech, Oklahoma or Texas and attempt to claim the program’s first outright conference title since winning the Big Eight Conference in 1960.
“We’re Big 12 North champs,” said Pinkel, addressing his team with a wide grin. “And guess what? We want a little bit more.”
On Saturday, the trophy was absent from Ames, Iowa, and led to discussion that it would be presented in Kansas City sometime during the Kansas game weekend. Missouri’s title marks the first time a Big 12 North school has claimed consecutive division crowns since Colorado accomplished the feat in 2004 and ‘05. Colorado also won back-to-back Big 12 North championships in 2001 and ‘02, and Nebraska became the first repeat winner in 1996 and ‘97. Missouri last won consecutive conference crowns of any kind when it won the Big Six Conference in 1941 and ‘42.
“We wanted to get this formality of the presentation of the trophy over so we can focus on KU,” Pinkel said.
“This is nice for our players. I wanted to make it special, because it’s hard to do. It’s hard to win. We certainly want more, but I want them to be proud of that accomplishment, and I think they are.”
When the presentation was over, quarterback Chase Daniel hoisted the trophy over his cropped brown hair. Teammates gathered at midfield and raised their thick arms above him to claim a touch. Soon, a larger trophy will be in play.
“It’s great,” Pinkel said. “I won’t ever get tired of this. Like I said before, it’s hard to win, and it’s even that much harder to win championships. We got a bite of this, and we’ll see what happens.”