It’s never a heartwarming thing to hear — that derogatory comment, “It looks like a high school stadium,” as spoken by the bro-tastic visiting Alabama fan walking directly behind me as we approached Memorial Stadium. But to him, and probably many others who have been blessed with the football palaces in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn., among other southeastern schools, that’s probably exactly what it looks like.
We’re trying to make it better, Alabama guy. It’ll be a really big high school stadium by 2015.
But by that time, we’ll already be left behind — way behind — by our counterpart newbie, Texas A&M.
On Wednesday, the school announced that it will soon be home to the largest stadium in the Southeastern Conference, which already boasts two of the highest capacity facilities in the country.
By the 2015 football season, Texas A&M’s Kyle Field will hold 102,500 fans, making it bigger than Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium and Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
More importantly, it will dwarf Missouri’s football stadium by about 25,500 seats, even when MU finishes its $72 million dollar project, which will add 6,000 more seats by 2015.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to this whole joining the SEC thing, at least as far as football is concerned, sometimes I feel like the Aggies are just walking all over us and then lifting their hind leg.
It was bad enough watching Johnny Football end his campaign for a Heisman Trophy by running over the Tigers to the tune of a 59-29 win last season, a score that looks a lot closer than the game was.
No, the inaugural match-up of SEC newcomers was nothing for Missouri fans to be proud of. But it didn’t end there.
Over the course of last season, when I found myself carping and criticizing the football program’s disappointing and, let’s admit it, boring product last season, I couldn’t help but think that Missouri’s approach needs to change fast or the conference is going to swallow us whole. During many a debate, I heard the same ol' argument, “It takes time” and “There’s a transition period.”
Whenever faced with this argument, I debunked the theory quite easily by saying, “I don’t see Texas A&M going through a ‘transition’ period.”
It’s true though. You will find no “transition” happening in College Station. What you find is an athletic program taking the tall task of assimilating into an elite conference and hitting it straight on, full steam ahead. No, the Aggies didn’t go 2-6 in the conference, and they certainly didn’t blunder away losses to mediocre Big East teams, like Syracuse.
The Aggies finished tied with the second-best record in the SEC, won the Cotton Bowl, demolishing a powerhouse in Oklahoma and finished in the top 10 of college football.
But it’s what the Aggies are doing off the field now that is more telling of the two stark differences in direction here. Still, this is a very slippery slope. Texas A&M isn’t Alabama or LSU. They don’t exactly have a good track record. In fact, an article from The Dallas Morning News from just two years ago titled “How Do You Fix Texas A&M’s attendance problem?” points out that the school had trouble putting fans in the seats.
Sure, I don’t know how this stuff works. Perhaps they just looked at the money in the bank and said, “Hey, we can afford making it the biggest stadium in football” and went with it. But this may be going a little overboard. This isn’t "Field of Dreams.” Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.
The Aggies were riding on cloud nine last season. But did the same thing not happen in Auburn just a few years ago? Who’s to say that Manziel doesn’t up and leave and that Coach Kevin Sumlin won't be shown the door after a couple bad seasons? Auburn, whose stadium holds a similar capacity as Kyle Field currently, didn’t go off adding 20,000 seats on a whim. Ask Gene Chizik about that.
Still, the A&M expansion shows the mindset in Aggie-land is an aggressive one, and MU could gain from taking a little piece of that pie.
I think our school should consider more than just adding 6,000 seats. When the financial possibility presents itself, MU should make it a goal to make Memorial’s attendance capacity 80,000 to 85,000 strong. I feel like our school is ready for that.
If we want to be in the SEC, we have to start acting like it.
Sure, the Aggies have the goofiest, most irritating traditions in all of sports, but they seem to have a mentality out there that is keeping up with the SEC way. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the fact I grew up with Missouri being in the Big 12, but I just don’t feel like I’m in the “Southeastern” Conference. And trust me, the black and gold shirts that simply say “SEC” on them aren’t helping any.
I know I sound a little negative here, but I do have faith, a lot of faith that Missouri will someday start fitting in better.
We have an awesome tradition here and some of the best fans in college football. I felt that proof standing on the field three years ago when we beat Oklahoma on Homecoming.
It’s time to really start building that SEC mentality in Columbia. I’m not trying to be cynical; I’m just eager. Perhaps A&M is moving too fast, but it’s better than moving too slow. I guess I must keep in mind what so many people have told me in the past year since we’ve joined the SEC: It takes time.