COMMENT: Blowout Missouri football loss hurts appeal of Homecoming

Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:33 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 29, 2009

COLUMBIA — Watching the home team earn a victory on Homecoming weekend is an unwritten expectation at many schools. In front of thousands of alumni returning to MU for the weekend, however, the Missouri football team's performance Saturday was less than inspiring.

In the Tigers' game against Texas, the Longhorns raced to an early lead on their way to an easy 41-7 win. Most fans familiar with the college football landscape probably weren't surprised by the performance of undefeated Texas, which is ranked No. 3 nationally this week.

So why would Missouri schedule Homecoming for the weekend the Tigers play Texas?

"Believe me, I've answered that question a couple times this fall," said Todd McCubbin, executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association.

The Mizzou Alumni Association chooses the date for Homecoming several years in advance. Carrie Bien, the association's coordinator of student programs, said there usually aren't many choices available that will work for Homecoming.

"We base it completely on date and not opponent," she said. "It has to be in October. (By November) the weather's too cold at that point."

The temperature was 56 degrees for kickoff of the Texas game, despite the fact it was played at night. It was the largest crowd of the season so far for Missouri.

In 2006, the circumstances were very different. Kansas State was the Homecoming opponent, and the Tigers won 41-21 on a chilly, cloudy Oct. 21. Much of the second half was played in a steady rain.

That game attracted the largest crowd of the season anyway.

It didn't seem to matter that the weather was lousy, or that a ranked Oklahoma team was coming to town the following week. It was Homecoming, and people showed up.

Which makes a game against 0-3 Baylor on Nov. 7, even if the weather isn't ideal, seem like a better pick for this year's Homecoming. But if weather is a concern, what about a game in September?

That would present a planning concern, Bien said. Students spend weeks in advance of Homecoming building floats, decorating businesses and organizing service projects.

"It would give them too few weeks to get that started," she said. The Alumni Association discusses the date with the athletic department, but "they allow us to make that decision."

McCubbin said the options for Homecoming were limited this year.

"Traditionally, we look at the last three weekends in October," he said. "This year, we really only had one game that was scheduled in that period. We were kind of pigeonholed."

Still, other schools have allowed a bigger window for planning Homecoming. Kansas' 2007 Homecoming game against Nebraska was Nov. 3.

McCubbin acknowledged other drawbacks to choosing an opponent like Texas for Homecoming when a less popular program is next up on the Tigers' schedule. The Texas game sold out weeks in advance, and McCubbin knows some alumni were left out.

"I'm more interested in ticket accessibility," he said. "There were some people this year that were upset."

McCubbin said the Alumni Association will choose a home game less likely to sell out if there are more than one in late October. For 2011, the Homecoming game will be Oct. 15 against Texas A&M instead of Oct. 29 against Nebraska.

"Nebraska traditionally sells well," he said. "I think that's where the opponent comes into it."

Missouri will face several good teams on Homecoming weekend in the near future. In the next five years, three of Missouri's Homecoming games will be against either Oklahoma or Texas, two programs the Tigers haven't beaten in this decade.

"Next year, we have a similar situation," McCubbin said. Missouri plays Colorado Oct. 9. "We went with the Oct. 23 game even though it's Oklahoma."

Homecoming festivities extend far beyond Faurot Field and the football game. But it seems like some of the appeal of Homecoming for alumni is drained when they see their Tigers down 21-0 in the first quarter, overmatched by a team considered one of the nation's best.

"There's not a perfect way to do it," McCubbin said.

Still, this year, it would have been nice to see Missouri football in a more favorable position when alumni returned. In the future, taking a chance on chilly weather might be worthwhile to let more visiting graduates see the game, and to give everybody a better chance to see Missouri win and remember the trip the way they'd like.

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Alicia Garcia October 29, 2009 | 9:26 a.m.

I must respectfully disagree with Bev. My love for Mizzou and my decision to return, every year, for Homecoming (all the way from Boston) has little to do with our opponent. Granted, it would be lovely to have a win like the 2008 game versus Colorado. However, I think that the 3rd weekend in October is one of the most ideal. The weather is usually perfect (remember the 80's and sunny weather from 2007? Last year was perfect, too.) The campus looks absolutely spectacular in the autumn foliage, which is peak around that time. The game is just one part of all of the festivities coordinated for the nation's largest student-run Homecoming celebration.

There are many people--who visit from out of town--that cannot purchase tickets and, therefore, spend much of their time tailgating near the stadium. Weather and ambiance is key. We need the weather for the parade, the spirit rally, the house decs tours, walking along 9th Street and Broadway for bar-hopping. This past Saturday was perfect for that. It just happened to be the only day of the weekend we weren't drenched! We were blessed.

As an avid football (and Missouri football) fan, I was saddened by the game. But the rest of the weekend more than made up for it. And, as somewhat of a football purist (despite my affinity for my Tigers), I can say I've watched the likes of Colt McCoy and others play live, before they go pro. Next year, I imagine Sam Bradford (a Heisman winner) will still be playing at OU, because of his injury this year. I will be able to watch him, as well.

I'm from The Class of 1999, when our team was absolutely terrible. Losses don't dampen my love for MU or my Tigers. I actually think the momentum and excitement for a game like Texas or Oklahoma should be that much greater because of the kinds of competitors we're facing. The team, themselves, can use that kind of support from the packed stands of alumni, returning to cheer them on.

And, let's not forget: games against teams like OU and Texas are televised, where our school and Homecoming celebrations get good exposure. There would be no such coverage for games against teams like Baylor or A&M.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 29, 2009 | 5:20 p.m.

Let's take this argument to its logical extreme: You would then not schedule an opponent for homecoming that had the slightest chance of beating you. Homecoming would always be a guaranteed win.

As it happens, there is another football team within this university "system." Believe it or not, its football program has been around almost as long as yours has. It is an NCAA Division II team, and last time I checked it has not won a single game this season.

Why not schedule them? Their program could use the money, because their alumni donate money for academic scholarships, teaching and research, not for athletics.

But could they withstand such an annual humiliation? Of course, they're used to it!

(Report Comment)

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