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Commentary: Tigers’ faithful feeling strained

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:43 a.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

Many Missouri fans will be eating crow as well as turkey on Thursday.

This past Thanksgiving, the Missouri men’s basketball team was ranked No. 3.

The football Tigers were bowl-bound and had recently beat Nebraska for the first time since 1978.

This year, Missouri will be giving thanks, just not for the Tigers.

“I’m thankful for a lot of things; my family, my friends, my job,” John Sullivan, a Missouri football and basketball season-ticket holder, said. “But the athletic department isn’t one of them.”

Ouch. You won’t see that quote in any media guides.

Maybe Sullivan isn’t being too harsh, though.

Missouri spends like a powerhouse,but has gotten as little bang for their buck in the past year.The Missouri football team is 5-8 since coach Gary Pinkel had his contract extended through 2008.

Basketball coach Quin Snyder made more than $1 million in 2003-04 for guiding a team with Final Four aspirations to a first-round NIT exit.

“All that money has gotten us is a lot of expectations and then a lot of letdowns,” Sullivan said. “It’s embarrassing to underachieve like we have. I was telling my family in Iowa how good both teams were going to be. They’re going to let me have it on Thanksgiving.”

To make matters worse, the $75 million Paige Sports Arena’s namesake is tainted less than a month after the arena hosted its first game. Even Houston’s Enron Field moniker lasted three seasons.

ABC’s John Stossel reported Friday that a fellow Southern California student said Paige Laurie paid her about $20,000 to do much of Laurie’s homework during a three-and-a-half year period.

Sarah Harris, a Missouri fan and graduate, said leaving the Paige Sports Arena’s name unchanged is not an option.

“It’s bad enough she had nothing to do with MU,” she said. “You can’t have your arena named after someone who goes against the university’s standards of academic integrity.”

Although changing the arena’s name seems like an easy decision to Missouri fans, the remedy for the football and basketball team’s woes is less obvious.

Of course, many fans are blaming the coaches.

“Snyder and Pinkel don’t learn from their mistakes,” Harris said. “Everybody talks about how stubborn Pinkel is, but Quin is just as stubborn.”

Missouri fans frustrations with Pinkel’s pass-happy offense have been well-documented.

After leading the Big 12 with 237.5 rushing yards per game in 2003, Missouri is seventh this year averaging 160.7.

Quarterback Brad Smith, despite suffering no serious injuries, has seen his rushing yards drop from 1,406 in 2003 to 452 this season.

Pinkel ordered Smith not to scramble throughout spring and fall practice. This strategy has seemingly made Smith hesitant to run, and thus, remarkably less effective.

Friday’s 84-81 loss to Davidson exposed flaws in Snyder’s team that have hampered the Tigers throughout his tenure.

All six of Snyder’s teams have struggled to run a cohesive offense, especially against a 2-3 zone.

But despite their angst, many Missouri fans are weary of making premature coaching changes.

“Pinkel and Snyder have done great jobs recruiting,” Sullivan said. “I can’t say I’m happy, but I’m worried we could be rebuilding forever if we do something drastic.

“I just know I’m done making predictions.”

Evidently, crow isn’t the tastiest bird.


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