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September 6, 2012

5 Questions with Darren Hellwege, Part Two

Part two of my interview with Darren Hellwege. He discusses the tailgating scene and Columbia. 

For SEC fans, what traditions (such as tailgating, ect) should we expect to see in Columbia?
Missouri’s an old and tradition-rich school. The campus itself is very nice, you’ll particularly notice the Francis Quadrangle and the large columns in the middle of it. Those columns are what’s left of the original main campus building, Academic Hall, which burned to the ground over 100 years ago. Walking through the columns in one direction your first week as a freshman to ceremoniously enter the school, and the other direction following graduation to leave, is a tradition for all MU students.
Also on “The Quad” is a bust of Governor Francis, for whom the Quad is named, and you’ll notice his nose is especially shiny. Rubbing the nose of the bust is said to be good luck before a major test.
Another part of the Quad is the campus of the world’s first and oldest school of Journalism. Many world-renowned reporters have come through those doors and there’s a lot of tradition there. In the far north corner is an archway with two stone lions that were a gift from the government of China, with whom J-School founding father Walter Williams had a strong relationship. Tradition holds that if a virgin ever passes through the arch, the lions will come to life and roar loudly. So far, they remain silent.
Another great campus tradition is the Memorial Union, a center of student life. The archway of the union was built in memory of Mizzou students who gave their lives for their country in the first World War, and in their memory people remove their hats while passing through the archway.
As for football, you’ll notice a statue of Don Faurot outside the stadium. The field is named after Faurot, who developed the Single Wing offense and was one of the most innovative and successful coaches in college football history. Mizzou is also known for coach Dan Devine, whose Missouri teams were among the most successful in the nation before he went on to coach at Notre Dame and then the Green Bay Packers.
The stadium is highlighted by a huge letter “M” made of stones at the north end zone. The stones were part of the excavation process when the stadium was built, and every fall the incoming freshman class gathers to whitewash the rocks in preparation for a new season. At the end of the final game of each season, senior football players head to the rock M and select one stone as a keepsake.
My favorite story with the M is of a Saturday morning in the 40s before the game with rival Nebraska, when Husker fans had arrived early and snuck into the stadium overnight, moving the rocks around and changing the M to an N. A caretaker noticed the switch early on Saturday morning, and went into action. He drove around in a large truck, finding boys playing in parks and yards around town, loading them up to help him move the rocks back into place. His small army of boys restored the rock M before kickoff, and they were rewarded with free passes to see the big game.
Not everything is good about that end of the field, though. The north end zone was the scene of two of the worst calls in NCAA football history. Both the infamous “Fifth Down” for Colorado in 1990 and the “kicked ball” touchdown for Nebraska happened at that end of the field, and some fans still consider the north end to bear a curse.
Traditions around the game include a large cannon from the ROTC which fires after each MU score, and the ROTC members do push-ups for each point the Tigers have scored. Tiger fans gather early for a tradition-rich pregame show with “Marching Mizzou,” judged one of the best in the nation. A favorite part is “The Missouri Waltz,” the state song to which fans wave their arms in unison.
Like many schools, the school has a traditional chant, with one side of the stadium shouting “M-I-Z” and the other responding “Z-O-U!” The large band is accompanied by “Big MO”, one of the largest bass drums in the world, and MU’s cheer squad and dance squad, “The Golden Girls” are nationally recognized, as is the beloved mascot “Truman the Tiger.” Named for Missouri’s U.S. President Harry Truman, Truman has won national “Mascot of the Year” awards in the past.
After the largest of victories, another tradition that is not as well-liked by administrators is the habit of rushing the field to tear down the goalposts. Goalposts are then carried up the north hill, across Stadium Boulevard, and through campus to downtown where they are traditionally sawed into small segments for lucky fans to keep at Harpos, a campus hotspot for many years for sports fans.
One other tradition at Mizzou is a gift to all of college football. Mizzou claims to be the home of homecoming. While other schools have a similar claim, Missouri is the first school to have held a homecoming in conjunction with a football game. Regardless of the accuracy of the claim, homecoming is a major event at Ole Mizzou, and the game with Kentucky as the first SEC homecoming promises to be a huge day for Columbia. Already one of the finest men I’ve ever had the honor of knowing has been named this year’s Grand Marshall, “Mister Mizzou” John Kadlec. “Coach” Kadlec has been a fixture at Mizzou for over 60 years. He played for Don Faurot, Frank Broyles and Dan Devine and was an all-conference lineman, and then coached for decades at the school. For many years before freshmen were part of varsity football, Kadlec was the freshman coach and generations of Tiger players still love their memories of playing for him. After retiring from the sideline, he moved to the broadcast booth and still more generations of Tiger fans know him as the long-time color analyst for the Tiger Radio Network. Having also served as special assistant to the Athletic Director, Coach Kadlec finally retired last year having served in one capacity or another for Mizzou in seven different decades. He is universally known as “Mister Mizzou,” and the practice fields at Mizzou were re-named the John Kadlec Field some years ago. Of the beloved traditions at M.U., perhaps none is more respected than this living tradition, Mister Mizzou John Kadlec.

What is the tailgating scene like?
Tailgating is a big deal at Mizzou. Missourians love their barbeque so you’ll get some folks out pretty early doing a big deal, but for most it’s just dogs and burgers and beer. Fans will head to the west side of the stadium before kickoff to welcome the team in the “Tiger Walk” as they cross Providence Road over the large pedestrian bridge with Marching Mizzou and the cheer squads. It’s a fairly new tradition but is becoming more important.
In addition to stadium parking lot tailgating, downtown Columbia is in easy walking distance so there are several pre-game hangouts including Harpos, the much beloved Shakespeare’s Pizza, The Old Heidelberg Restaurant which is favored by Journalism students, and the famous Booches, a old pool hall and burger spot that’s been in business since before 1900.

Tell me one thing unique about Columbia night life.
I’ve seen college towns where the campus and downtown areas are somewhat separated, in Columbia they’re virtually inter-mingled, so downtown nightlife is very student oriented. There’s a very under-rated local music scene here, with everything from hard rock to some terrific bluegrass and country bands. Mojos is a hotspot for fans of the blues, and The Blue Note has for many years welcomed some of the big names in alternative rock and other forms of music. For those who like more sophisticated entertainment, the University Concert Series has for 100 years welcomed fine arts performances, and in recent years they’ve expanded to programming for all audiences, with this year’s schedule featuring everything from broadway hits and family performances to Joan Rivers and George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic. There’s some good places for the GLBT crowd, for predominantly black people, several excellent coffee shops…in other words a lot of variety. And it’s all within easy walking distance of the downtown and campus area.



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