COLUMBIA — He knew he would have trouble with his girlfriend’s father: Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit.
Jon Breidenstein knew it from the moment he started dating her six years ago. The clash was inevitable. At least he was honest with Sheri Cubit Breidenstein, whom he married in Columbia in July.
One day, he looked at her and shared his fear.
“We’ll be fine until your dad coaches against Missouri, and then we’ll see what happens,” he told her.
The couple will have plenty to joke about when Missouri plays Western Michigan on Saturday. The two, both 27, met while working at Outback Steakhouse in Columbia, but they now live in Kalamazoo, home of Western Michigan.
Jon Breidenstein, who grew up in Columbia and graduated from Hickman High School, has loved the Tigers since he was 10. He went to games at Faurot Field and stayed there with friends after everyone headed home.
It was their job to stick around. They collected and threw away all the stale popcorn, spilled drinks and crumpled programs fans had left behind. When they finished cleaning up, the stadium became their playground. They ran onto the field and started playing football.
Jon Breidenstein will return to Faurot Field to attend his first MU game in several years. His wife will join him. To avoid conflict with his in-laws, Jon Breidenstein has devised a plan.
“Western’s team is black and gold, Mizzou’s black and gold, so I’m going to wear black and gold,” he said.
He’s fortunate. Although the Broncos’ official colors are brown and gold, their uniforms are black and gold.
Other than his loyalty to MU, Jon Breidenstein has no problems with his father-in-law.
“He’s treated me well,” he said.
Cubit’s confident his son-in-law will correct his most obvious flaw.
“He’s been such a big Missouri fan,” he said with a laugh, “but I’m sure my daughter will turn that around.”
Those powers of transformation run in the family. Cubit, MU’s former offensive coordinator, took over at Western Michigan in 2005 after the Broncos had gone 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the MAC in 2004.
“We talked about losing all the time,” said Robbie Krutilla, the Broncos’ four-year starter at center.
Cubit changed that quickly, even though it was his first head coaching job. He talked about winning, and the players believed him. He established rules and enforced them: If you wear a hat in the football complex, you have to do 15 push-ups. If you miss a class or show up late, you must get up at 6 a.m. for a grueling individual workout with the strength and conditioning coach. Miss that or come late, and you’re suspended for a game.
“It’s all about preparing for life. It’s all the little things in football that I think can do that for you,” Cubit said. “That’s why I think it’s such a great game.”
The approach worked on and off the field. The Broncos were 7-4 in 2005. Last year, they went 8-5, led the nation in interceptions and played Cincinnati in the International Bowl, their first bowl game since 1988. Players also posted the team’s highest GPA in history during the 2006 fall semester.
Cubit’s peers noticed.
“I’m very impressed with that,” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “I just didn’t think he could get to a bowl game that quick.”
Coaching the Broncos isn’t the toughest task Cubit has recently tackled. Both of his daughters, Sheri and Stacey, got married this year.
“It probably was more difficult writing out those checks,” he said with a chuckle.
The coach’s daughter and the diehard MU football fan couldn’t resist incorporating the sport in their wedding. After the ceremony, Sheri and Jon Breidenstein and their wedding party went to Faurot Field for pictures.
“It was 94 degrees, but on the field it felt like 200 million degrees,” Sheri Breidenstein said. “Our feet were burning.”
Everyone was sweating, but the bride’s hair was as immovable as a 300-pound offensive lineman. For 20 minutes, they posed at midfield and near the goalposts before heading to the reception at Stephens College.
Sheri Breidenstein couldn’t help taking some stuff from the stadium with her. She got rubber pieces of artificial FieldTurf stuck in her shoes, dress and veil.
Although she roots for the Broncos, her husband’s devotion to the Tigers has also rubbed off on her. When the two lived in Columbia, they bought season tickets one year, and she showed her spirit by wearing tiger ears to games. She can’t abandon remnants of those Saturday afternoons.
“I got a few (MU) T-shirts at the bottom of the pile,” she said. “I was thinking I was just going to have to give them away, but I can’t part with them.”