Column: Flush your bowl hopes, MU fans

Sung to the tune of Dixie: "I wish I were in the land of Coppin, their team's bad, but our team's rotten, look away, look away, look away, Tiger fans."

Have you ever heard the story of the athletic department that sold its basketball team to the devil for a winning football program?

Stormin' Norman and the men in shorts owe a debt of gratitude to the MU football squad. If not for Corby and Co., the average Tiger fan might actually give a darn that this year's basketball team ranks among the worst in recent history - a fact that already is prompting its die-hards to proclaim: "Yeah, but just wait 'til we get next year's recruits in here!"

Heads should roll if Coppin State beats a Big 12 school in an origami-making contest, let alone a basketball game. And yet, MU is the first Big 12 team in 16 matchups to fall victim to Coppin State (which, as a matter of fact, isn't a state at all).

Fortunately, few people noticed the colossal belly-flop suffered by Monte Hardge and his hoops henchmen Tuesday night in the Hearnes (Alumni) Center. That's because ... ah hem ... (in holiday style): Students were nestled from J-School to Med, as visions of bowl games danced in their heads.

And while this basketball apathy might last a week or so beyond the night before Christmas, fans will soon have to face the brutal reality that it won't be a happy new year for the MU hoops program.

Flush your bowl hopes, MU fans.

According to Bruce Binkowski, associate director of the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, MU is heading there on Dec. 29, barring one of the following two scenarios: 1) hell freezes over, or (even less likely): 2) Tennessee loses to Auburn in the SEC championship game.

The San Diego trip should be perfect for students who either live in San Diego or have the last name Rockefeller. For everyone else, well - you rooted a little too loudly this year, I guess.

You see, as Binkowski told me, one more Tiger loss this season would have "clinched" an Alamo Bowl bid in San Antonio - the overwhelming preference of students.

For less than $300 a person, Student Life was sponsoring a bus trip to San Antonio including hotel accommodations and a game ticket. But don't fret - for a mere $990, a student now can attend the Alumni Association's plane trip to San Diego (a trip that also includes an engraved name badge and a nifty souvenir!)

And, while Coach Larry Smith has publicly said that he wants to go to the most accessible bowl (that being the Alamo), that's not what the team told the Holiday Bowl organizers in private.

"All indications we have according to our discussions with Missouri are that the minute it's official, they're excited to come out," Binkowski said.

After all, what's the difference? A little more sun for the alumni, a little more cash for the athletic department, and all at the mere expense of sacrificing a few students.

Readers of "Balls," there is some good news here. While the alumni are living it up in San Diego, the University of Maryland comes to the Hearnes Center to play the basketball Tigers. And, if you're really sneaky, I'll bet a student could slip into the prized alumni seats to watch a possession or two.

But keep in mind, these guys lost to Coppin State. Do you really want to see them up close anyway?

Prediction: Arkansas 87, Missouri 49.

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