Missouri gymnastics prepares for its final Big 12 Championship

Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 7:57 p.m. CDT; updated 10:22 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 22, 2012

COLUMBIA — Since the Missouri gymnastics program was formed in 1980, the Tigers have won one conference title, a Big 8 Championship in 1992.

Rob Drass was there that day in Ames, Iowa, soaking in his first trip to the Big 8 Championship competition as a graduate assistant coach for Nebraska.  

Drass remembers that day vividly, particularly the Cornhuskers' "abysmal" uneven-bar rotation to start the meet and a second-place finish to the Tigers.

"We were really out of that meet from the beginning," Drass said. "Missouri did a nice job, hitting all four events, and ended up edging Nebraska out."

Twenty years later, Drass, now in his 13th season as the head coach of Missouri, leads the Tigers into Norman, Okla., for the Tigers' last appearance in the Big 12 Championship.

Drass, who has been coaching in the Big 12 since its inception, says the meet Saturday will be bittersweet for him.

“I’ve been part of the Big 8 or Big 12 since I have been coaching, so I will be a little sad to see it go," Drass said.  "But in the same breath, we are very excited for next year and the opportunity the SEC presents us.”

Drass has watched the past two years as the only two schools he has coached for at the collegiate level, Nebraska and Missouri, announced their exit from the Big 12. However, Drass realizes that these moves are all a part of a shifting collegiate landscape at the athletic level.

“I know when Nebraska left last year, I understood having been in that position where we were looking to go to the Big 10 as well," Drass said. "I think it's just a time in college athletics where the landscape is changing over the next five years and it's going to be substantially different than it was in the past."

Drass said Missouri gymnastics has not faced any animosity from other Big 12 teams because of its departure, at least on the surface. 

“I’m sure there is some underlying animosity there," Drass said. “All of those relationships are 20 years old though, so its not like you drop the rest of your family and you go somewhere else.”

Drass said he expects to continue having regular season meets with Oklahoma and Iowa State, just like Nebraska, which remained on the schedule this year.  

It is hard not to look forward to the challenge the SEC presents, but he knows his team is focused on the present task at hand, Drass said. 

"I think right now we are going to take each meet as it comes, as this is a big bragging rights meet this weekend," he said.

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