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Tiger football team visits Capitol

April 20, 1999
By: Edward Klump
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - At times the atmosphere inside Missouri's Capitol Tuesday seemed more like that of Faurot Field than of a place of government business. But that's what happens when the state's largest university comes to celebrate its first bowl victory since 1981.

Eleven members of MU's Athletic Department were in town to be recognized for the achievements of last year's football team. Mizzou's entourage -- which included coach Larry Smith, Athletic Director Mike Alden and six players -- was introduced on the floor of both chambers.

The team received applause, and the House and Senate both passed resolutions congratulating the team. In the House, the lawmakers even broke into a familiar cheer. The Democrats chanted "M-I-Z," while the Republicans responded with "Z-O-U."

The whole experience left a couple of Missouri players amazed by the legislature's quick pace and hectic atmosphere.

"I was intrigued by the chaos, people running around, and everything that was going on," said Julian Jones, a junior defensive back and free safety. "They stopped everything when we came in."

Center Rob Riti, a senior, said it was nice to recieve the state's support, and to learn about the legislature at the same time.

"It was very flattering to be recognized," he said. "It was also amazing to just be in the Senate and the House when they were acting in parliamentary procedure."

This is the second straight year the Tigers have made the trip to Jefferson City, which included lunch and a tour of the Capitol. Several lawmakers organized a similar event in 1998 after Missouri played in its first bowl game in 13 years. Missouri finished 8-4 this past season, including a victory over West Virginia in the Insight.com Bowl.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, introduced the team in the House. As the representative for Columbia and an MU alum, Wilson said she was excited to see the team at the Capitol.

"It's always a thrill for the legislators and the staff to meet the Tigers, Coach Smith and Director Alden," she said. "The Boone County legislators appreciate the opportunity to show off the Tigers, and to be able to reward them for their achievements."

Alden said the team's trip to the legislature was also a way to embrace MU's role in representing the state. He said the athletic department was at the legislature promoting all of its athletic teams.

"We were able to expose elected officials to our kids, our coaches and to our university," he said.

Smith said he agrees it's important for people to realize that Missouri athletics play an important role in the state. He said the visit was a chance for Missourians to see the team up close.

"It helps our players see people because we also represent the constituents of this state," he said.

And those at the Capitol seemed proud of what the Tigers accomplished last year.

"I think that most people in the state feel pretty well represented," Smith said.