Saturday, March 10, 2007

First Capitol News Sports - Mike McMurran Sports Editor

A couple of things I believe warrant attention this week. The first topic deals with the University of Missouri at Saint Louis – more popularly know as UMSL. My wife and I are both graduates of UMSL, her degree is in Business and mine in Education. The years Lynn and I attended UMSL there seemed to be an identity crisis. Mizzou was the University of Missouri, SLU was of course Saint Louis University, Wash U was Washington University – I think most of you get the picture by now. It seems that someone with far, far too much spare time on their hands felt that the term “UMSL,” wasn’t projecting the image the University wanted. After months and months of studies, which cost thousands and thousands of dollars, the committees came to the conclusion that UMSL would forever be known as UM – Saint Louis. God only knows how much more money was spent on changing signs, stationary, billboards – once again, I think you get the idea.

Was the money well spent and was the change viewed positively? That I’m not sure of, but to this day I’ve not heard a single person say they graduated from “UM – Saint Louis,” have you? Nope, everyone I’ve ever talked to is a proud graduate of UMSL.

Well it seems history repeats itself, because my alma mater is once again experiencing an identity crisis. From what I have been able to gather from reading the weekly student newspaper, The Current, the students are up in arms over the nickname of the university. Quickly – for ten thousand dollars and a round trip ticket to Country Club Hills, MO, what is the nickname for UMSL? Time’s up – the answer is The Rivermen, unless of course you play on a female team, then it’s of course the Riverwomen. I suspect I could relay some of the quotes the students have made, but as far as I’m concerned they are all lame! Who cares what they think? I don’t want to sound like an angry old man here, but believe it or not there is some tradition in the name, the Rivermen. How about in 1973 when the Rivermen were the National Division II Soccer Champions? The years Lynn and I attended UMSL were the hey day of the basketball program. Their current head coach was the star player, and the team drew crowds that rocked the Mark Twain Auditorium (Mark Twain and Rivermen – anyone besides me see something here).

Presently UMSL is spending tens of thousands of dollars to find out (a) if the name needs to be changed at all, and (b) if so, what should it be changed to. To those who argue there is no history to the name, I say not yet, the school is still in its adolescence.

Topic two: Scottrade Center needs to do everything they possible can to insure the Men’s Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament remains in downtown St. Louis. As I’ve stated here before, I’ve been attending the tournament since the days it was held at the old Arena. Back in those days they would take a giant black curtain and curtain off half of the Arena to make it look like the place was filled. Slowly but surely, year by year, the tournament has grown, and grown and grown. This past weekend the Scottrade Center had over 22,000 paying customers in the seats for both the semifinals and the finals. Counting Friday’s semifinals and Thursday’s first round games, the tournament attracted over 85,000 fans. One simple question: how many Blues’ games (this year) would it take to draw 85,000 fans?

Lastly, and probably most importantly, good luck to Coach Wacker and his Saint Charles High Pirates as they travel to Columbia this weekend to play in the finals of the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s Class 4 basketball tournament. By the time most of you read this column, Friday’s contest will be over and we will know if the Pirates are playing for third place or the title. No matter what happens, it has been a great ride for everyone. Congratulations Coach Wacker on your retirement. What a way to go out, sir.