Southern pays tribute to JuCo athletes

Lee Pound escorts Fred Daugherty, JuCo alumni during the half-time recognition on Feb. 18.

Lee Pound escorts Fred Daugherty, JuCo alumni during the half-time recognition on Feb. 18.

Camaraderie and reminiscing was the focus on Feb. 18 at Young Gymnasium.

At the Missouri Southern men’s basketball game, former athletes and coaches from Jasper County Community College, and Joplin Community College were honored at half-time.

After the game, the alumni had a reunion in Young Gymnasium, giving the participants an opportunity to reunite with those many have not seen for years.

“It’s probably the first time I’ve been back in several years,” said Jim Muehling 1972 basketball alumni.

In case some of those in attendance may have forgotten what their old peers looked like, there was assistance.

“Some of them of course, I had to look at their name tags even though I played with them just to see who they were,” said Fred Daugherty, JJC football alumni. “It’s just a good relational thing.”

Buddy Ball, JJC alumni, said it was his first time being reunited with some of the old players in 50 years. He said of all the coaching and games his teams had won, being honored by the University would always be in his memories.

“This reunion is the most pleasing to me personally than anything I’ve ever done,” Ball said.

Coming back on campus even provoked old competitive feelings among some of the alumni.

“There’s been a lot of smack talking,” said Alan Potter, alumni football player. “We’re still trying to figure out which one of us was the best athlete.”

After watching the game, there were jokes comparing the old athletes with the current ones on campus.

“I thought it was a very nice gesture by the college,” Potter said.

Bart Tatum, head football coach, said meeting some of the former athletes and coaches showed him the level of support at the University.

“Every single person I talked to today, and there were dozens, said they are all extremely interested in our football program, they want to see it excel,” Tatum said. “They were just saying ‘anything we can do to help you, were just a phone call away’ and that was awesome to hear.”

The event was organized by a the student alumni association and the athletic alumni association.

Daugherty and Dr. Floyd Belke, JJC alumni of 1947, initially brought forth the idea of honoring the athletes of the Junior colleges.

Belke said while he was academic vice president he noticed at homecoming more recent alumni athletes were given recognition.

“I thought of all the athletes that had been at the junior college, excellent athletes, but yet we had not recognized them,” Belke said. “So that was the seed that got things started and we hope it grows from that point.”

Guest speakers at the event were University President Julio León, Keith Adams, JJC alumni and other athletic staff.

Adams, member of the alumni association board, said the event had an even better turnout than expected. Adams said a lot of addresses were generated through the event that were not in the system, so lots of networking took place in organizing the event.

“It’s just a great feeling to know you were apart of something that was the beginning of such a big university,” Adams said.

Sallie Beard, athletics director, also addressed the alumni about their impact on the University, adding it had always been her dream to see them honored for their contributions.

“You are, in large part, responsible for what we enjoy today,” Beard said. “I grew up knowing how important Joplin Junior College was to our community.”

“I think this has been tremendous for Joplin Junior College to come back and be apart of Southern,” said Robert Corn, head men’s basketball coach and athletic alumni director.

“I think we had a great turnout for this today and hopefully we’ll continue to build and this comes into an annual thing.”

Lee Pound, alumni association director, said the alumni association is available for reunions of any alumni.

“We always encourage the warrior students to come back,” Pound said. “The JuCo group may wish to have another reunion off of this one.”

Others appreciated the opportunity to hear from the alumni.

“I came just as it had become a four-year college,” León said.

“I have had an opportunity to understand the philosophy of the old Junior College, so I think this is a great idea. They played for the college that was before Missouri Southern so in a sense they are the pioneers of the athletic program.”

“‘Connection for life” is the motto in bringing alumni back to the campus,” said Elisa Bryant, alumni director. “I want them to get connected and stay connected in the long run. I hope it’ll bring them back to Missouri Southern campus.”