Darren’s Take: 2011 in review

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Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator

The year 2011 will go down as one of the turning points in Missouri Tigers sports history. While the big story was obviously the Tigers leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, there was some great success on the field, especially for Tiger softball. Some teams started well then faded a bit, like last season’s men’s basketball team. Others, like Tiger baseball, started the season poorly then came on strong at the end. And several teams appear to have a very bright future, as success has come to Tiger soccer and volleyball teams stocked with excellent sophomores and freshmen, with tremendous recruiting classes on the way.

There was also shocking news, from the arrest of coach Gary Pinkel to the departure of Mike Anderson and accusations against Frank Haith of wrong-doing during his time at Miami. But it was in every way a memorable year for Mizzou fans, as we celebrate the New Year by looking back over the year that was in MU Tigers sports.

January
Top story: MU men’s hoops starts Big 12 season in top ten but starts league play with loss to Colorado. The Tigers would never be as highly ranked in 2011 until the final weeks of December after so much had changed with the program.

Other news:

  • Raeshara Brown Big 12 women’s basketball player of the week as Tigers upset Texas
  • Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith declare for NFL draft
  • Preseason softball poll ranks Mizzou No. 7 in nation
  • “Mr. Mizzou” John Kadlec retires from broadcast booth
  • Wrestling tops Oklahoma State in national duals

February
Top story: MU announces strong football recruiting class, including Sheldon Richardson and Corbin Berkstresser. While Mizzou is still a school that loves its hoops, you’ll learn that life in the SEC means football is the lead story all year long. This recruiting class wasn’t among the tops in the nation, but had some key parts for the Tigers, including Richardson who is already paying dividends on the defensive line, and several players with very bright futures.

Other news:

  • Men’s hoops stay in top 25 through Big 12 season
  • Soccer coach Bryan Blitz signs two from U.S. national team, one from Canada’s
  • Volleyball alums Lindsey Hunter hired as MU assistant coach, Tatum Ailes named head coach at Columbia’s Rock Bridge High School


March

Top story: Men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson promises he’s staying, days later announces he’s going to Arkansas. While most understand the draw of Fayetteville for the longtime Razorback assistant, the timing and Anderson’s sneaking out of town dodging the press left folks sour. Ironically, Anderson will find himself back in Mizzou Arena within the next couple of years as part of the SEC and one expects he’ll find a rather icy welcome.

Other News:

  • Tigers go 1-1 in Big 12 tourney, Marcus Denmon named first team all-conference in men’s basketball. Lose in first round of NCAA tournament to Cincinnati.
  • Women’s basketball loses in first round of Big 12 tournament, Raeshara Brown named second team all-conference.
  • Kristin Nottleman’s softball no-hitter overshadowed as Chelsea Thomas throws two perfect games in one week. Thomas named softball national power.
  • Loren Figueroa, Dominique Bouchard place second in their events in NCAA swimming.
  • Dom Bradley third and Todd Schavrien sixth in NCAA wrestling


April

MU announced the hiring of Frank Haith in a press conference at Mizzou Arena.

Top story: Frank Haith hired as men’s basketball coach. This month was full of big news, but coaches and contracts were the big news. First, the Tiger faithful responded with varying degrees of confusion, distress and outright anger as a surprising choice, Miami’s Frank Haith, is picked to replace Mike Anderson. Later in the month, Gary Pinkel’s success is rewarded with a new contract and a fat raise.

Other News:

  • Tiger softball sweeps Oklahoma
  • James Franklin has slight lead over Tyler Gabbert as the starting QB
  • Aldon Smith (49ers) and Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars) picked in first round of NFL draft


May

Top story: Softball team with Big 12 championship, heading back to Women’s College World Series. As Mizzou’s years in the Big 12 wrap up, there have been few league titles to celebrate, but this one was a thrill. The Tigers then ran through regional and super regional play, and prepared to head back to the College World Series for third year in a row.

Other News:

  • Tigers lose by a run to Aggies in Big 12 baseball championship game
  • Tyler Gabbert announces he will transfer from Missouri
  • Student athletes head to Joplin to help with tornado relief efforts
  • Kim English and Laurence Bowers decline to enter NBA draft


June

Top story: Softball team beats Oklahoma in the WCWS before losing to Baylor in extra innings to be eliminated

Other News:

  • Former Tiger/NFL star Howard Richards announced as new color commentator on MU football radio broadcasts
  • Golfer Jace Long named all-American
  • All-American decathalete Lars Rise finishes fourth at NCAA championships
  • Former Tiger Christian Cantwell finishes second at US track and field championships in shot put


July

Chelsea Thomas

Top story: USA wins Softball World Cup behind Chelsea Thomas and Rhea Taylor. Their inclusion on the nation team speaks volumes about how far Ehren Earleywine has brought this program; there’s no doubt it’s the strongest sport on campus now.

Other News:

  • Big Soccer ranks recruiting class in top 10 nationally
  • All-American heavyweight Dom Bradley will sit out season to prepare for Olympics
  • Former Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow named AL all-star for the Kansas City Royals


August

Top story:  Molly Kreklow named national volleyball player of the week; and Soccer team upsets No. 7 Ohio State.

Other news:

  • Dirty dealing alleged in Miami athletics, finger pointed at Haith
  • David Yost and Dave Steckel promoted to assistant head coaches for offense and defense respectively
  • Marcus Denmon plays for USA in World University Games


September

Top story: MU football gets underway with a win over Miami (OH) and overtime loss at Arizona State. We saw beginnings of the baffling stumble by kicker Grant Ressell, who would struggle then be lost to injury.

Other news:

  • Tigers finish the month at 2-2, turnovers remain problem for Franklin
  • Marcus Denom named preseason All-American

Missouri quarterback James Franklin runs for a touchdown.


October

Top story:  Football team upsets Texas A&M. Just when the season looked like it was headed to the rocks, Missouri comes from behind for the win. While the Aggies blowing big leads was a story all year, it was a great win for Franklin and the Tigers and got the season turned around.

Other News:

  • Tiger hoops loses Laurence Bowers to knee injury in pick-up game in student rec center
  • Men’s basketball team plays exhibition charity game in Joplin
  • Soccer layers Alyssa Diggs, Dominique Richardson and Kaysie Clark receive all-conference honors


November

Top story: Are you kidding? The announcement. Missouri moves to the SEC. After months —hell, after YEARS of frustrating rumors and speculation—the penny finally drops. Rivalries of more than 100 years are tossed aside for bigger bucks and more prestige (at least athletically) in the Southeastern Conference.

Other News:

  • Football coach Gary Pinkel arrested for drunk driving
  • Football team upsets nationally-ranked Texas
  • Missouri blows out Jayhawks in (possibly) last game in grand rivalry
  • Men’s basketball team wins CBE Classic with wins over Notre Dame and Georgia
  • Men’s and women’s cross country teams place seventh in NCAA regionals
  • Soccer team advances to second round of Big 12 tournament, loses to Aggies
  • Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow are all-big 12 in volleyball, Whitney Little and Emily Wilson receive freshman honors

December

Top story: Football finishes with a flourish, beats North Carolina in Independence Bowl. James Franklin is given the MVP award, but they should have given it to the offensive line. (How do you divide a trophy among five players? Just give it to Truman the Tiger.)

Other News

  • Volleyball loses in first round of NCAA tournament, Henning named All-American
  • Men’s basketball team in top 10, undefeated
  • Flores joins 1,000 point club, nears block record
  • Women’s swim team ranking No. 10
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