J. KARL MILLER: No applause for defecting to the SEC

Friday, November 11, 2011 | 6:08 p.m. CST; updated 5:20 p.m. CST, Friday, November 18, 2011

*CORRECTION: Following the traditional repast, the men would adjourn to what is now *Memorial Stadium to watch the Tigers put a whipping on the Jayhawks. A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the location.

Call me sentimental, call me reactionary, call me maudlin, call me Ishmael, call me anything except late to dinner. But don't look for me to cheer the University of Missouri's migration to the Southeastern Conference.

An unreconstructed traditionalist, I was never convinced that expanding the Big 8 Conference to include four Texas universities (Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor) was in our best interests.  


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I was perfectly satisfied with Mizzou as a charter member of the Big 7 through my graduation in 1957, but I welcomed the 1958 addition of Oklahoma State to balance an already established conference.

As an alumnus along with my mother, father and two brothers, my memories date back to the '40s when the members of my mother's clan (the Zero House Allens) would gather in Columbia on Thanksgiving Day.   

Following the traditional repast, the men would adjourn to what is now *Memorial Stadium to watch the Tigers put a whipping on the Jayhawks.

The advantages derived from membership in the Big 7/8 are readily apparent.  The relatively short distances between the schools made travel to away games both easy and affordable, while the similarities of these "Plains states" schools were made to order for rivalries.  

Of these rivalries, the most enduring and best known is that between Missouri and Kansas. Now branded the Border Showdown, the Missouri/Kansas football game is the second-oldest college rivalry in the United States in Division I and the oldest west of the Mississippi River.  

First meeting on the playing field in 1891, the Tigers and Jayhawks have competed 118 times — the result being a virtual tie (KU has claimed victory in a disputed game, but you know how Jayhawkers lie).

Admittedly, for several years, gridiron competition in the conference was virtually nonexistent. I won't go into the details; however, the Big 7 was known derisively as "Oklahoma and the Little Six."  The addition of Oklahoma State University to the mix drew an equally uncomplimentary comparison — "Oklahoma and the Seven Dwarfs."

Sadly, the quest for money, the proliferation of bowl games and the lure of television and the accompanying cash cow, have all but rendered the "student athlete" an endangered species and, for all practical purposes, removed Division I college sports from the amateur ranks.  

What was once a pleasant Saturday afternoon outing to cheer on the team of one's choice has fallen victim to TV ratings, BCS rankings and "musical chairs" conference affiliations.

I do understand, albeit grudgingly, the final decision to move to the SEC for a more stable atmosphere than that observed in the increasingly dysfunctional Big 12.  

The 2010 bolting of Nebraska and Colorado to the Big 10 and Pac 10 respectively, along with Texas A&M's deserting an apparent sinking ship in 2011 to become a member of the SEC, were hardly a ringing endorsement of Big 12 leadership.

Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, the Big 12 could have survived. It is no secret that the University of Texas and its arrogant posture "I am traveling this road and you are expected to follow," posture is the proximate cause of the ensuing turmoil and resentment among the other schools.

Rather than cut and run, as did Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri (on its second attempt), it would appear that strength in numbers favored the 11 other members in a showdown against the Longhorns of the Lone Star State.  

Where was the leadership and resolution of moral strength to put Texas in its place? There is the highway, Bevo, fish or cut bait.

That said, I will continue to purchase season tickets to Missouri football and women's basketball games and attend the so-called lesser sports by supporting the Tiger Scholarship Fund at my current level. As a true son of Old Mizzou, I take seriously the obligation to support the Tigers.

Sadly though, I will no be longer be able to travel to road games, and I will sorely miss the traditions of the Border Showdown games against Kansas and the familiar competition with Iowa State, Oklahoma and even Nebraska, and the other former Big 8 squads.

The additional revenue gained from competing in a bigger and more prestigious conference is undoubtedly a plus, but switching athletic venues does little for educational values — the resultant SEC membership is reminiscent of the tail wagging the dog.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at

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Ellis Smith November 12, 2011 | 2:07 a.m.

Usually, Karl, I agree with you, but this time not so much. It seems to some of us in this "university system" that MU has finally found its true athletic conference "home." A place of shared values, so to speak.

In our modern, fast-paced world relationships tend to be fleeting. In another decade or so there will be those in the Big 12, or whatever it will then be called, who will recall there used to be another university in the conference, but they will have trouble recalling the name of that university.

It's time for dinner, Karl. Among other dishes we're having boiled okra.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall November 12, 2011 | 7:42 a.m.

It may be because I'm an "outsider" only having lived in MO since 1978, but my feelings about the MU/KU rivalry have changed significantly since I began to truly understand its roots in the slave trade, bitterness cemented by Quantrill's raid on freestaters in Lawrence in which he murdered over 189 men and boys. Missouri's position on slavery and the fact that lynchings happened right here in Columbia don't exactly make me proud of the history of this state.

Frankly, I don't find anything at all honorable or worthy of holding up the Mizzou/Jayhawk enmity as some kind of shining example of sportsmanship history. It's time to lay that old and horrible time to rest and let the rivalry go.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 12, 2011 | 8:49 a.m.

@ Robin Nuttall:

I agree, but there is also a humorous side to the rivalry.

While MU and KU maintain this "bitter" relationship there was a period of about 50 years when KU and the campus now called MS&T maintained a tuition reciprocity agreement that allowed Kansas residents to take certain majors at MS&T without having to pay out-of-state tuition and which allowed Missouri residents to study architecture at KU without paying out-of-state tuition. MU had no part in that agreement.

MU's bitter rivals are our former "business partners." "Rock, chalk, Jayhawk, K-U-U-U!"

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 12, 2011 | 9:40 a.m.

Robin N. Were you able to study only the one side of the MO-KS situation? Or, did you choose not to consider the reaction of Missourians to the atrocities committed by so called Kansas Red Legs? Random trips into MO to kill Missourians, burn their farms, after stealing everything they could move, to be auctioned off in Lawrence KS.

Quantrill's raid was the second time Lawrence was burnt in attempt to stop the killing of Missourians. "In May 1856, Sheriff Samuel Jones and 400 pro-slavery Missourians looted the town and burned it to the ground."

It seems, sometimes, some just prefer not to accept the "rest of the story". Too bad.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller November 12, 2011 | 10:33 a.m.

Robin, I think I understand your distaste for the MU/KU rivalry, particularly as it is portrayed today. However, to those of us whose memories are rooted in the 40's and 50's when the rivalry was a serious but goodnatured desire to kick the othjer team's posterior all over the field and then adjourn somewhere to enjoy a few brews--the beer of choice was Greisedeick Brothers Light Lager.

There was never a thought of Quantrill nor of Redlegs nor of slavery nor of anything but whupping the Jayhawks. I have no idea when this campaign of hate and one upmanship over 1860's atrocities has its origins--perhaps we were more civilized in the 50's. The contest is and always has been on the athletic fields--let's all get a life and enjoy the game. After all, a game is supposed to be fun.

By the way Ellis, I prefer my okra fried--are we having catfish with hush puppies or chicken fried steak?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 12, 2011 | 10:34 a.m.

@ Robin & Frank:

My late aunt received her initial degree in music from KU and she didn't kill anyone or burn anything down. :) :)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 12, 2011 | 10:48 a.m.

@J. Karl:

I love fried okra. It's amazing that the same vegetable can be appetizing fixed one way and disgusting fixed another. How are you with boiled peanuts (a South Carolina snack "delicacy")? They slur the word "peanuts" and sounds like "penis." One would think "boiled penis" would be both revolting and very painful.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti November 12, 2011 | 12:39 p.m.

The MU/KU football rivalry predates the formation of the Big 6. Therefore it can continue even after Mizzou left the conference. The KU response makes me wonder if the rivalry means as much to them as it means to MU. If not, then it is not much of a rivalry to continue anyway.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 13, 2011 | 4:21 a.m.

When reminiscing about the good old days in the Big 6, Big 7, or Big 8 we need to remember that when Colorado became a participant the conference expanded to two time zones.

The SEC includes two time zones, and in the state of Tennessee we have the situation where one conference member (Vanderbilt) is in the Central Time Zone while another (University of Tennessee) is in the Eastern Time Zone.

Fans traveling to games need to have their watches set accordingly. Life just gets more and more complicated, doesn't it. But then in Nashville (Vanderbilt) there's the Grand Old Opry...

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller November 13, 2011 | 9:44 a.m.

Boiled peanuts, biscuits n gravy, grits, beans cooked with ham hocks and served with cornbread, cracklins, country ham, red eye gravy and turnip/collard greens and fried chicken (fried in lard of course) were standard fare where I grew up. And, I grew up so far out in the sticks that we did not get the Grand Ol Opry until Monday.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 13, 2011 | 10:57 a.m.

JKarl says, "I grew up so far out in the sticks that we did not get the Grand Ol Opry until Monday."

What's the Grand Ol' Opry?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 13, 2011 | 12:33 p.m.

J. Karl:

A deceased friend of mine was one of several brothers who grew up on a farm near a town that is now UNDER Lake of the Ozarks said that every morning when they got up to go to school their mother served them biscuits and gravy - because it was either that or go hungry. Actually, it makes sense: ingredients for home-made biscuits were affordable, and gravy with diced meat in it could come from either slaughter of domestic animals or wild game.

In the Caribbean and parts of Central America the "cuisine" is based on red beans and rice. If you have something else, such as pork, chicken (seldom beef) or fish or shrimp you toss that in the pot, and that's what you have to eat.

In Asia the base is rice, plus whatever else you have - if you have anything.

*- I enjoy red beans and rice, and roti (a flat bread that is used similar to soft tacos) with curried goat is yummy.

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 13, 2011 | 1:32 p.m.

Among Cubans, thus Florida, the beans are black. Ballyhoo's restaurant in Key Largo made a black beans and rice so delicious that I asked for the recipe. They gave it willingly but, I've never obtained the same result. Too many places serve rice with black beans.

(Report Comment)

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