COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 12: Fans hold up a sign indicating the University of Missouri's conference change during the game against the Texas Longhorns on November 12, 2011 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Last summer, Know Your Foe covered Florida's rivalries and regular opponents; this summer, it will be covering Missouri, the rest of the SEC, and Florida's non-conference opponents. Previous installments: Georgia, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, Miami, Auburn Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Ohio State, other Florida schools, and Florida's 2011 schedule.
Last Sunday, the SEC officially welcomed Texas A&M and Missouri to the conference. Today, we at Alligator Army will welcome the SEC's 14th school. A founding member of the Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences, Missouri lobbied hard to become the 12th member of the BigTen, before fleeing the imploding Big 12 for the SEC last fall. The Tigers will be (at least for now) the seventh member of the SEC East, making them the Gators newest annual opponent.
The University of Missouri is located on 1,250 acres in Columbia, Missouri. Founded in 1839, Missouri was the first public university west of the Mississippi. The iconic columns on Francis Quadrangle are remnants of the original Academic Hall, which burned down in an 1892 fire (allegedly sparked by the first light bulb west of the Mississippi). The site in Columbia was chosen over five other communities when the residents pledged $117,000 in cash and land (much of which was owned by James S. Rollins).
The University's design was based around Thomas Jefferson's original plans for the University of Virginia, as a tribute to the president whose Louisiana Purchase added the land that would become the state of Missouri. (In 1883, Jefferson's heirs gave Mizzou his original tombstone.) The university was forced to close for a year in 1862 due to the Civil War, and the campus was occupied by Union Troops. During this time, the residents of Columbia established a militia that defended the town with such ferocity that they earned the nickname "Tigers," which would later be applied to the University's athletic teams.
After the Civil War, the University began expanding its academic program, adding a College of Education in 1867, a School of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts in 1970, and the world's first School of Journalism in 1908. Today Mizzou is composed of 20 academic colleges, and is the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system. The University is a member of the Association of American Universities, making it the fourth AAU Member in the SEC (Florida, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M are the others). Mizzou ranked 90th in the 2012 US News and World Report ranking of colleges and universities.
Mizzou's football tradition begins in 1890, but can be defined by two coaches and two of the most notorious plays in recent college football history. Mizzou also claims to be the creator of Homecoming (though others dispute that claim) as a way to attract more fans to their first on campus game against Kansas in 1911. Their rivalry with Kansas was the second oldest in college football, but will not be continued this year, and may not be continued in the near future due to the Tigers' move to the SEC. In 1986, Mizzou officially named its mascot "Truman" after the 33rd President of the United States, Harry Truman, who was a Senator from Missouri (though he did not attend the University).
For most of their football history, the Tigers have been average, with two exceptions: the 1960s, when (future Notre Dame coach) Dan Devine lead the Tigers to a 10-1 record in 1960 (the sole loss, to Kansas, was later forfeited due to the Jayhawks use of an ineligible player), and under current coach Gary Pinkel. Since Pinkel came to Missouri in 2001, they have finished over .500 in eight of his 11 seasons at the helm, and were briefly ranked No. 1 nationally for the second time in school history in 2007. Between those two coaches, the school had two brushes with football notoriety. The first was 1990's infamous "fifth down" play, where (eventual co-national champion) Colorado was given an extra down to score the game winning touchdown. The second was their 1997 game against (eventual co-national champion) Nebraska, in which a pass was kicked by one Cornhusker receiver to another for the game-tying touchdown on the final play of the game, allowing Nebraska to win the game in overtime. Incidentally, Mizzou has played more overtime games (14) than any other NCAA school, fitting in well with its new conference that has played four of the five longest overtime games in NCAA history. The Tigers 2-1 record versus Alabama makes them the only current SEC member with a winning record against the Crimson Tide.
Mizzou's move does come with a price, namely the end of several historical rivalries. The biggest rivalry had been the Border War with Kansas University, played 120 times since 1907, and named after an actual border war between the two states. They also had played Nebraska and Iowa State over 100 times, and had a trophy game with Oklahoma, which will likely all end with the Tigers' move. This year, the Tigers have elected to start fresh with new uniforms and branding, and new rivals to match their new conference.
The lone meeting between the Tigers and Gators came in the 1966 Sugar Bowl, and resulted in a 20-18 Mizzou victory. The Tigers dominated the first three quarters, amassing a 20-0 lead. In the game's final period, junior Steve Spurrier led Florida on a furious comeback, scoring the final touchdown himself on a two yard run, but the three botched two-point conversions proved the difference. For his efforts, the Gator quarterback, and eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Spurrier, was awarded the game's MVP despite being on the losing side.
This season, the Tigers will come to Gainesville for the Gators last, regular-season SEC game of the year. The trip will be Mizzou's first to Gainesville, but their second trip of the year to the Sunshine State, as they will visit UCF earlier in the year. Both teams have been mentioned as dark horse candidates to win the Eastern Division, so the game could have division championship ramifications, especially if the Gators do well in Jacksonville the week before.
Welcome, Mizzou, to the SEC.