Big 12 Conference honors seven Missouri football players

Thursday, December 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:19 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Big 12 Conference honored seven Missouri football players Wednesday, including Atiyyah Ellison, a senior defensive tackle who was named to the All-Big 12 team.

Big 12 coaches voted on the selections, but could not vote for their own players.

Senior linebacker James Kinney and junior guard Tony Palmer, were second team All-Big 12.

Junior quarterback Brad Smith, senior defensive back Shirdonya Mitchell, junior defensive lineman C.J. Mosley and junior safety Jason Simpson were honorable mention.

Oklahoma quarterback Jason White was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson won the defensive honor.

Iowa State coach Dan McCarney was named Big 12 Coach of the Year, while Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson was the first Big 12 player to earn Offensive Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors.

COLUMBIA COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: The Cougars won their first two matches at the NAIA Volleyball Championship at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego to lead their pool.

In the first match, the Cougars defeated Savannah College of Art and Design 30-18, 30-24, 32-30. Senior outside hitter Jacqueline Makokha had 16 kills and 14 digs and sophomore outside hitter Doris Wefwafwa had 15 kills and 12 digs.

In the second match, the Cougars defeated Houston Baptist for the second time this season 24-30, 30-27, 30-18, 30-24. Senior setter Tracie Ford had five kills and 49 assists.

MU GYMNASTICS: The Tigers earned a No. 22 national ranking in the GymInfo Coaches preseason poll. They start their season at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Hearnes Center with the Black and Gold Scrimmage.

The Tigers return 12 athletes from last year’s 15-3 squad, including senior Alicia Robinson and junior Lauren Schwartzman, both reigning Big 12 champions.

MU TRACK AND FIELD: The Tigers signed eight recruits to letters of intent, six from Missouri.

Missouri athletes include women throwers Krishna Lee of O’Hara High School in Kansas City and Kendra Greene of Boonville High School, men’s distance runners J.C. Butler of Ladue Horton Watkins High School in Olivette, Garett Jefferies of Marquette High School in Chesterfield and Chris Pullen of St. Joseph West High School and women’s distance runner Amber Warren of Lutheran High School in St. Peters.

Women’s pole vaulter Darby Kelly of Southlake, Texas and women’s thrower Laura Frye of Ada, Okla., also signed.

ROCK BRIDGE: BOYS’ BASKETBALL: The Rock Bridge boys’ basketball team opened its season with a 72-40 victory against Waynesville on Monday night in the Lebanon Tournament.

Brett Gifford, the Bruins’ 6-foot-9 junior center, scored 12 points and had 14 rebounds. Terrell Turner led Rock Bridge with 14 points, Alex Austin had 11 and Logan Gray and Mitch Erdel each had 10.

NOTRE DAME: Tyrone Willingham blamed himself for his firing as Notre Dame coach, saying he failed to meet the school’s expectations of producing an elite team.

Willingham, though, wouldn’t say whether he was given enough time to turn the storied program back into a football power. His three-year tenure was the shortest of any non-interim coach at the school in 70 years.

“I don’t get into what’s fair and what’s not fair,” he said. “I am an optimist by nature, but I am also a realist, and that makes you deal with the events as they occur. So I will deal with the events.”

Willingham was fired Tuesday with three years left on his initial six-year contract after going 21-15. Notre Dame had made a tradition of allowing its coaches to at least work through the length of their first contract.

“I understand that I did not meet the expectations and standards I set for myself and this program,” he said. “When you don’t meet your own expectations you make yourself vulnerable to the will of others. So today I am no longer the head football coach at Notre Dame.”

His players, though, left no doubt they thought three years wasn’t enough time for Willingham.

“Think about it,” quarterback Brady Quinn said. “It’s not even allowing one of his recruiting classes to get all the way through.”

Willingham, the first black head coach in any sport at Notre Dame, was asked if he had any thoughts on the number of black head coaches in Division I-A being reduced from five to two.

“Plenty, but none of them will be discussed now,” he said.

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