Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk took a break during Missouri athletics’ summer offseason to meet with assembled media on Thursday to discuss: where Missouri is on deciding whether or not it will sell alcohol at athletic events, the next step in the appeals process, when the construction on the South End Zone will be completed and Missouri fans being more supportive than ever.
In-game alcohol sales
The SEC rolled back regulations restricting the sale of alcoholic beverages at athletic events earlier this year, allowing each university to make its own guidelines. While many SEC schools have already moved ahead on plans to sell alcoholic drinks at games, Missouri is still in the process of getting a plan finalized. Sterk said the plan would likely have to be in place by July in order to be prepared for football season.
Sterk said he has met with a variety of university groups to get feedback and put together a plan to show the chancellor. He noted that MU Police are in favor of selling alcohol at games, citing studies that show a correlation between reduced arrests and allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages during games.
Missouri is also looking into establishing alcohol-free sections at games if they move ahead with allowing in-stadium alcohol sales, which all signs point towards.
Update on appeal
The next stop in the appeals process in Missouri’s attempts to overturn NCAA sanctions placed on its football, softball and baseball teams is an in-person hearing. Sterk said the hearing will be held sometime in July and that it is the final step in the process until the final decision is handed down. The entire appeals process typically takes three to six months and Sterk expects a decision sometimes in the early fall, “hopefully before football gets too far along.”
Sterk reiterated Missouri’s case for the appeal, including the chilling effect the punishment might have on future compliance for other NCAA schools.
“Anyone that’s been in intercollegiate athletics understands, there has to be cooperation, there has to be that buy-in by the membership,” Sterk said. “I think what has really shocked people and caused them to step back is that we did all that and got exemplary cooperation and then (the NCAA) went above and beyond any kind of precedent in a decision. ... My philosophy is we’re going to win it right, we’re going to do it the right way. That decision doesn’t encourage that.”
Sterk said construction on the South End Zone is still ongoing but on schedule. The construction is slated to be completed well before the Tigers host West Virginia on Sept. 7.
When the endzone is completed, Missouri football will move out of the Missouri Athletic Training facility and into the new facilities housed in the endzone. This will open up the MATC offices for women’s soccer as well as track and field. Track and field will eventually move into the current football locker room, but renovations will be needed before that can get done.
Increased fan enthusiasm
After the 2015 protests and retirement of long-time football coach Gary Pinkel, Missouri athletics took a hit in terms of ticket sales and athletic department donations. While football attendance has been dropping every season since 2014, things are beginning to rebound. Missouri had a 82% season ticket renewal rate this year, higher than any season since 2015. Missouri’s annual fund raised $11.4 million last year, a record, while the number of annual donors is now over 10,000, surpassing the all-time high of 9,200 back in 2013.
“What we’ve done I think is gained back trust,” Sterk said. “I think we have an opportunity to really grow (fan support) back stronger and get more people involved. I’m excited about that.”
Sterk provided some clarity on former-MU swim coach Greg Rhodenbaugh, who was placed on an administrative leave during the fall in the midst of a Title IX investigation. Rhodenbaugh was removed as head coach because Sterk said the program needed to move on and have stability in leadership. A decision on Rodenbaugh’s future employment cannot be made until the Title IX investigation is complete.
Regarding the condensing of the Golden Girls and MU cheerleading into one team, Sterk said “Actually in meeting with some of the alums, it used to be (one team). That’s the way it was before and we think that that’s probably the best model to create unity and support and direction and the best experience for both programs.”