A common phrase in the coaching community and one many sports fans know is “It is not about the X’s and O’s – it’s all about the Jimmys and the Joes.”
What this means is that many times in the world of coaching and sports, it does not matter if you out plan the opponent, or if you play with more heart and want to win more the the person you are facing. The truth of the matter is that many times what it all comes down to is if your players have more talent and natural ability than the players across from them.
In the world of collegiate athletics, the reality of the world we live in is that it takes money and a commitment from more that just the people that are directly responsible for finding players and developing players. Coaches and athletic departments need money to travel and find players and have players come to see them.
Griffon men’s basketball has had a rough season this year. They currently sport a 7-10 conference record, while having just an 11-13 mark overall. That .458 winning percentage is the best the program has had since the 2009-2010 season when they finished 18-12 and reached the NCAA tournament.
Since that season, the program has changed coaches and has seemed to have a shift with how money is used as far men’s basketball recruiting.
In only his second season at the helm of Griffon men’s basketball, head coach Brett Weiberg has managed to get the team heading in the right direction and making strides from the time he took the reins.
Inflation happens with everything these days, and collegiate sports are certainly not immune to this. As prices have continued to rise for many things associated with the recruitment of athletes and the general running of a college basketball program, institutional support for the program here at Missouri Western has actually decreased.
“Everything is more expensive than it was three years ago, four years ago, certainly 10 years ago, and our league expanded,” Weiberg said. “We added teams, we added geographical area, we added Kearney, we added Hays not that long ago and we added the Oklahoma teams. Now we have trips that cost money that we never had before. I don’t think our budgets have accounted for that, so it makes your money tight.”
According to the October NCAA Financial Reports that Missouri Western submits yearly to NCAA, direct institutional support has actually gone down since 2011. In the 2011 report, it shows $380,626 in direct institutional support, while in the 2014 version of the same document shows only $356,074 in direct institutional support.
While those may appear rather large to the casual observer, when compared to other schools in the conference those figures are not enough to reasonably expect a year-in and year-out contender to be born out of program that has been stuck in mediocrity for a while now.
Northwest Missouri State University, Missouri Western’s main rival and a school that devotes a lion’s share of its athletic budget to its perennial-power football team, provides men’s basketball $437,290 of direct institutional support. For Missouri Southern University, that number is $413,978.
“Do you want to win and be competitive or do you want to stay within your realm?” Missouri Western Athletic Director Kurt McGuffin said. “Southern is financially similar to us. I’m not crying… but it’s hard to compete with people in the conference when your getting $100,000 to $200,000 less [in direct institutional support for the the whole athletic department].”
The University of Central Missouri tops all others above with $751,493. The Mules also just happen to to the defending national champions.
“Do we want to be competitive and do things similar to other schools?” McGuffin said. “I’m not trying to be Central Missouri because theirs is ungodly – basically they told me they get whatever they want.”
The Griffons are coming off an 18-point loss to their rival Bearcats on Saturday. The Bearcats are currently leading the conference with a 13-4 conference record and are 20-5 overall.
All of the players for Northwest Missouri that played in that contest have been at Northwest since they began their college careers. Northwest has made a point to target high school players and get them to their program and develop these players in their four years as a Bearcat.
Only one of Missouri Western’s starters in that game started his college career as a Griffon, and 48 of the Griffons’ 54 points came from athletes which have transferred into the program.
“I did bring in some kids that were with me at my junior college and that helped keep the cost down on recruiting, because when you bring in kids that were already with you, you don’t spend near as much money recruiting them,” Weiberg said.
The transfer route works for many programs. Often, these programs have limited budgets and use the transfer route to obtain players that are more proven and have less risk than the high school players that teams may not have the ability to scout due to their limited budget and resources, but Western has relied almost exclusively on it in the past.
“We have enough to compete, but obviously the more money we have the better,” Weiberg said.
This season, Weiberg has shown a desire to adjust from that method by bringing in four freshmen, including starter Cole Clearman.
In order for Weiberg to continue to change the culture here at Western into a winning one, he will need the university’s financial support to compete in the MIAA and on a national level. Athletics are a big money venture at the NCAA level and time will tell if Western will do what it takes to get the “Jimmys and the Joes” to challenge its rivals and the rest of the MIAA.