The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 9, 2012

Missouri Southern celebrates 75 years of athletics

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— Two national championships came 20 years apart — football in 1972 and softball in 1992.

And, there have been close calls for national titles in baseball and men’s and women’s basketball.

There are a total of 37 conference championships, including an MIAA “triple crown” — cross country, indoor track and outdoor track — by the women’s track team in 2007-08.

There are victories over NCAA Division I teams — 48 of them in baseball plus football victories over UNLV and Wichita State and a men’s basketball victory at Oklahoma State.

All are part of Missouri Southern’s athletics history, and during this year’s 75-year celebration of Joplin Junior College and Missouri Southern, the school has announced a list of 75 people, places, things and events associated with athletics.

“As a university we wanted to go all-out on this 75th anniversary celebration all year,” said Kevin Greim, major gifts officer for the Missouri Southern Foundation and former associate athletics director and radio broadcaster.

“From the athletics standpoint, we wanted to do something to honor our heritage, and we thought the best way to do that was to talk about throughout the course of the year 75 things that have made us who we are today. We decided to come up with a list of 75 most influential people, places and things in Southern athletics and to have fun with it.”

The list was released at Saturday night’s football game against Northeastern State.

The 75 items are listed in no particular order; however, people are encouraged to see the list online at and vote for their favorite moment. Voting will continue through mid-October, and the top 13 vote getters will be part of a 2013 MSSU calendar.

The list includes several coaches but few athletes.

“We didn’t want to simply replicate the Hall of Fame,” Greim said. “The Hall of Fame is full of fantastic athletes. It’s so hard to differentiate between contributions of so many of our great athletes. We have some big games there, some memorable games. We wanted to focus on events and experiences over the years rather than solely on the individual athletes.

“We did some fun things, too, like the experience of having a ‘Mutt Burger’ at Joe Becker Stadium. That has to be one of the 75 things.”

The list also has happenings with disappointing endings.

“John Ware ... what an impact he had on Missouri Southern athletics in the short time he was here,” Greim said. “A great man like him who had a heart attack in midseason ... we had to have him in there. Any university’s history has some moments in it that are very important but were sad in their outcome. Definitely John Ware was that.

“Another one we struggled with was the loose-ball foul on Carlos Escalara in the national (basketball) semifinals in 2000. I would venture to say there’s not a more viewed or listened-to game in Missouri Southern’s athletics history than that one. That was an unfortunate play, but it belongs in the top 75. At least we were there ... we had a chance to win the game and play for a national championship.”


75 years of Missouri Southern athletics

(Items Listed in No Particular Order)

1. Women’s track and field triple crown, 2007-08.

2. Final game in Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.

3. Having a Mutt Burger at Joe Becker Stadium.

4. Warren Turner, baseball coach.

5. Pat Lipira, softball coach.

6. Victories over Division I teams.

7. Robert Corn, men’s basketball coach.

8. Conference championships.

9. 1972 football national championship team.

10. Rod Smith, football player.

11. Lionbacker Booster Club.

12. 1999-2000 men’s basketball team.

13. Tom Rutledge, men’s track coach

14. The road trippers – Don Gross and Wendell Redden.

15. 1992 softball national championship team.

16. Hal Bodon, men’s soccer coach.

17. The opening of the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

18. 1982 women’s basketball NAIA runner-up team.

19. Jim Phillips, women’s basketball coach.

20. Jim Frazier, football coach and athletics director.

21. Sallie Beard, women’s coach and athletics director.

22. Patty Vavra, women’s track coach.

23. Jon Lantz, football coach.

24. Chris Tucker, men’s basketball player.

25. Transition from MSSC to MSSU.

26. Southern Stampede cross country meet.

27. Going from NAIA to NCAA and from the CSIC to the MIAA.

28. Going from a junior college to a four-year school.

29. The progression of logos.

30. The original turf at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

31. The opening of the MSSU Softball Complex.

32. SouthernFest.

33. Track and field individual national champions.

34. Baseball national tournament runner-up teams.

35. Lions in the NFL.

36. The E.O. and Virginia Humphrey Award.

37. One-State, One Spirit Classic and I-44 Hoops Classic.

38. The Sonic Trophy Series.

39. Robert W. Plaster Gift to athletics.

40. Origination of green and gold as school colors.

41. Origination of the mascot.

42. Sports medicine progression.

43. Women’s athletics 25th anniversary.

44. MIAA basketball tournament moving to Kansas City.

45 through 56. First year in each of 12 sports.

57. Title IX.

58. Jasper County College.

59. Men’s basketball Puerto Rico connection.

60. John Ware, football coach.

61. Maryann Mitts, women’s basketball coach.

62. The winner at Weiser, 1987 men’s basketball victory at Drury for NAIA District 16 title.

63. The comeback, 2006 men’s basketball team erases 28-point deficit in final 13:40 to win at Pittsburg State.

64. Missouri Southern hosts cross country national championships.

65. Moving from Junge Field to Hughes Stadium.

66. The Call, 2000 men’s basketball team loses in Elite Eight semifinals when a loose-ball foul with 1.5 seconds left set up Metro State’s game-winning free throw.

67. The MSSU Hall of Fame.

68. MSSU legacy athletes.

69. MSSU coaches who played here.

70. Community ties.

71. Super fans.

72. Ever-changing face of the MIAA.

73. Relationships with local media.

74. Dudley Stegge, junior college football and track coach.

75. Joplin High School’s use of the MSSU facilities after the May 2011 tornado.