GUEST COLUMN: Bigger than just a game

Nathan Mills

Missouri Southern’s 35-21 win over hated rival Pittsburg State last weekend was one of the biggest wins in program history.

Yes, a school that won a national football championship in 1972 can count on one hand its landmark victories, and this has joined the bunch. There’s that NAIA national title game over 40 years ago, a game or two during Lion legend Rod Smith’s tenure and this game that the Lions can consider among the all-time great performances.

No, there weren’t any records broken Saturday, but there is a record that matters after that game: 19-1.

Any school, team, alumnus or student would be ashamed to be the one in this situation, but they’d be wrong. People will say that while the Southern community has reason to celebrate, it’s still embarrassing to be on the short end of what amounts to almost 20 years of letdown and heartache. Embarrassing, maybe, but still the wrong attitude.

This one year — this one victory — is more than just cause for celebration; it could very well be an indication of things to come.

Take a second and look around you. Nearly everywhere you can see signs of a bright future for the University. Sure, football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and others have been on an upward trajectory lately, but that ignores other achievements like the new residence hall and tornado shelter approved last week by the Board of Governors, climbing (albeit slowly) enrollment and an administration that at least seems rededicated to serving the University community.

This is only football, and it’s easy to say that sports aren’t an indicator of a university’s worth. An education is the primary reason universities exist, after all. Good athletes don’t guarantee anyone a good education. They don’t even guarantee wins on the gridiron, though Southern certainly had plenty of both this year and, we  hope, more to come. Those wins come from an attitude adjustment, one Head Coach Daryl Daye has implemented quite well, it seems.

What wins like this do is raise the spirits of the people on campus, and truly, it’s the people who make a university great — who make this University great. Just as men like Jay McDowell and Daye have helped return Southern to winning on the field, so can people like Pat Lipira and Alan Marble return Southern to glory off the field. That glory will be built on the backs of great faculty and staff like those I met in my time on campus.

It remains to be seen if Marble and Lipira will keep their interim positions, but all signs seem to point to the right pieces being in the right places, at least for now. Even if that pair ends up moving on, the rest of the people on campus, from top to bottom, can and will pick up the slack in their absence.

It’s a new attitude, one that seems to have everyone — including students — reinvigorated. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?