COLUMBIA – The choice on Saturday could be conflicting for some. For Earnest Ross, it’s between his old school and new school, but it’s not a difficult choice.
“Not for me,” Ross said, chuckling.
He was talking about what so much of this city, and this campus, is talking about: Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship football game. The matchup is more personal for Ross, who played for Auburn for two years before transferring to Missouri in 2011.
Now in his third year as the Missouri type of Tiger, Ross expressed his loyalty with a quick answer.
“I hope Mizzou wins,” he said.
Missouri coach Frank Haith called this a “big week” for his basketball team, and said he is looking for his players to take a step forward in upcoming games against big-name opponents such as West Virginia (Thursday) and UCLA (Saturday).
But the fact that the Missouri football team was a talking point for Haith and his players Tuesday at a press conference shows just where at least a part of everyone’s mind is during this historic week for Missouri athletics.
On Saturday the undefeated Missouri women’s volleyball team will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament at the Hearnes Center. The football team will be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. Basketball will host legendary program UCLA at Mizzou Arena.
"Just look at what’s going on at Mizzou," Haith said in an opening statement. "I think it’s a big peak for our university from an athletic standpoint."
Both the football and basketball games will be aired nationally on CBS, something Haith is excited for.
"What an opportunity for the university," Haith said. "They (the football team) didn’t have any one game on CBS. That team has been in the Top 10 all year. Are you kidding me? Now they are on CBS. And we’re on, too. What does that do for the Mizzou brand? For six hours that day, it’s Mizzou."
Some of Haith’s players though, see the football team’s success this season as not just a novelty, but as motivation as well. The basketball and football programs have their similarities. Both consider last season a disappointment and both were widely predicted to finish this year near the bottom of the standings.
Guard Jabari Brown admires the progress the football team has made and has tried to emulate it.
"Seeing how they bounced back from having kind of a tough year last year," Brown said. "We tell them congrats and all that stuff and we trying to do the same thing: Have a good year. We haven’t worried about that preseason stuff."
Brown said that of all the football players, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham would probably make the best basketball player because of his size. On the other hand, Ross is the consensus pick among his teammates and coaches as the basketball team’s best athlete. At 6-foot, 5-inches, Ross is Brown’s pick for which basketball player would make the best gridiron star.
Forward Ryan Rosburg said there are players in the basketball locker room who are disappointed they can’t go to Atlanta to watch the football game, but that that hasn’t affected their focus.
"I wanted to go, but we have business to take care of," Rosburg said. "I’m hoping to win and then settle down and watch them win. It’s going to be a big Saturday."
Supervising editor is Nina Pantic.