Missouri began the 2011 football season as a member of the Big 12, but by the time season ended, they were headed to the Southeastern Conference. It was yet another tumultuous season for the college football landscape, especially in the Heartland, where conference partnerships between schools that had existed for over a century were severed.
The impacts were felt all over the sport, but no where more so than in the middle of the country, which includes some pretty passionate college sports areas. All seven of the longest interrupted college football matchups are from the Big 12, with six of the seven involving Big Eight teams. All seven of these football series were played for at least 89 consecutive years, with some meeting many more times. But no more are they annual parts of the college football experience. Missouri-Kansas. Texas-Texas A&M. Nebraska-Kansas. Missouri-Iowa State. Nebraska-Iowa State. Nebraska-Kansas State. Nebraska-Missouri.
There was a lot of excitement about Missouri’s move the SEC, and other schools moving to their new conferences, and there are plenty of great things about that move even beyond the money and stability. New traditions and excitement and parts of the country to explore. But we can at least acknowledge college football lost something with these moves.
The rumblings of conference realignment were there in the summer, especially when Texas announced its plans for the Longhorn Network. Texas A&M went to work, and by Labor Day weekend and the start of the season, word was out they were going to the SEC.
Missouri began the season with the games overshadowed by conference realignment talk, with plenty of speculation, but the Tigers took care of business on the field with a 17-6 win over Miami-Ohio on Sept. 3.
Missouri then had a Friday night game at Arizona State. It was a riveting game, with Tiger quarterback James Franklin showing his potential. At the end of regulation, with the game tied, Missouri attempted a field goal to win it. Gary Pinkel called two timeouts right before the kick attempt was to come. He later said it was an effort to draw a Sun Devil defender offsides, but it had the appearance of a coach attempting to ice his own kicker before a big kick. The kick missed, and the game went to overtime. Arizona State won 37-30 in overtime.
The Tigers returned home and pounded FCS Western Illinois 69-0, a nice win but a thoroughly non-competitive game.
Next up was a daunting trip to No. 1 Oklahoma, what we would later learn was the Tigers’ last trip to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Bob Stoops was nearly unbeatable in Norman, and despite a strong effort from Missouri the Sooners won 38-28. Oklahoma would go on to win the Big 12 that year, Missouri’s last in the conference.
By the Oct. 8 game at No. 20 Kansas State, the Missouri-to-the-SEC chatter and reporting was growing strong. In Manhattan, a business’ marquee sign read, “Hey, Mizzou, the SEC called, Oh wait they didn’t.” The K-State SB Nation website had a hilarious post about Mizzou moving to the SEC where they rewrote the words to “You never even called me by my name” as lyrics about the possible move, replacing the title phrase with “Just promise you’ll let Ol’ Verne call our games.”
“Well, it was all we could do to keep from cryin’
Texas done made it useless to remain
You don’t have to call us Missouri, darlin’
Just promise you’ll let ol’ Verne call our games”
As for the actual game, Kansas State was getting on a roll in the second Snyder Era, marching toward a second-place Big 12 finish, and they would win the Big 12 in 2012. In this game, the Wildcats prevailed 24-17 over Missouri in the Tigers’ last trip to Manhattan.
Missouri was now just 2-3, but the Tigers rolled to a 52-17 home win over Iowa State on Homecoming, securing the Telephone Trophy until further notice.
The Tigers then hosted No. 6 Oklahoma State on Oct. 22. Just like 2004 and 2008, the Cowboys won in Columbia, although this time was not an upset. OSU won 45-24 this time.
Missouri was now 3-4 with a tough game on Oct. 29 at No. 16 Texas A&M coming up. It appeared to be a matchup of teams leaving for the SEC. Texas A&M had already made it official, and a press release from the Big 12 the day before announcing West Virginia joining the Big 12 listed “expected” members for the conference, and Missouri was not one of them, with TCU taking their spot. So the Tigers were in a weird spot, sort of limbo, on the way out with their conference home, but it wasn’t official yet.
In more pressing matters, Missouri needed a win at College Station. They got one, pulling out a much-needed 38-31 overtime win over the Aggies to improve to 4-4.
On Nov. 5, Missouri lost 42-39 in a shootout at Baylor, who had that year’s Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Robert Griffin III. That same night, No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama played a classic game, which looked like a totally different sport, with LSU winning 9-6 in overtime. Bama would win the rematch and the national title later that season.
The next day, Nov. 6, the SEC officially announced they were adding Missouri as the conference’s 14th member, starting with the 2012-13 athletic year.
Missouri now had a three-game official farewell to the Big 12. The Tigers hosted No. 21 Texas on Nov. 12 in Columbia. Missouri running back Henry Josey suffered a brutal knee injury on the Faurot Field turf. But the Tiger defense played brilliantly, and Missouri won 17-5, getting a win against the school most schools blamed for breaking up the conference in their final meeting. It also lifted the Tigers to 5-5 and the brink of bowl eligibility.
But this season was one of constant off-field news, and that week Pinkel was pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol, famously telling the officer his glasses of win had been “jumbo” sized. At one point the officer radioed in and said he had Gary Pinkel pulled over and the coach was “drunker than Cooter Brown.” He was suspended for a game, so he watched from afar as Missouri battled Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech Red Raiders on Senior Day in Columbia. The Tigers trailed 27-17 heading into the fourth quarter, but they came back with two touchdowns in the final period and they held off Tech’s last drive for a 31-27 Missouri win. The Tigers were going bowling.
Pinkel was back the following week for the season finale, on Nov. 26 against Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium. It was Missouri’s final Big 12 game, and the 120th and currently final Border War football game.
Kansas was bad, winless in conference play, but the Jayhawks took 10-0 lead partway through the second quarter and led 10-3 at the half. But Missouri woke up with two third-quarter touchdowns and another in the fourth quarter to win 24-10.
Missouri finished the regular season 7-5, and went back to its home away from home, Shreveport, to play in the Independence Bowl. The Tigers faced the 7-5 North Carolina Tar Heels, who were led by an interim head coach, Everett Withers. The regular head coach, Butch Davis, had been fired right before the season amid allegations of NCAA violations. It was Missouri’s last game as a Big 12 school and UNC’s first game against a Big 12 school.
The big news from the bowl was some good old mascot hijinks, when Truman the Tiger dropped the expensive crystal football from the bowl trophy and it broke.
As for the actual game, Missouri dominated, winning 41-24. The Tigers finished 8-5. It had been a fairly ho-hum actual season, not bad enough to really get worked up, not good enough to really get excited. But it was a winning season, and the excitement would build all offseason long for that move to the SEC.
2011: 8 years ago, tied for 5th in the Big 12
Record: 8-5, 5-4 in Big 12