Small Name Change Makes Big Difference
Not only is the new name stitched in cotton, it's also etched in stone.
"I think it reflects the university we have here," explained student Kellie Wolf, who testified at the state Capitol during last year's legislative session.
"I think for students to get the best the state of Missouri has to offer we need two wonderful, statewide institutions," she added, referring to the University of Missouri flagship campus in Columbia and MSU.
Ken Meyer, who owns a Springfield radio station, didn't like the constant political bickering in Jefferson City over last year's name-change bill.
"We cancelled the Tigers on our station down here," he said. "I got tired of the short-sightedness of what I could never interpret, if it was jealousy or what the purpose of fighting it was."
The name change was, and still is, big news in Springfield. You could say the bear's growl was louder than the tiger's roar.
MSU political science professor Ken Rutherford can't understand why dropping one word was such a big deal. He wrote 200 letters supporting the name change.
"We don't want what they [people at the Columbia campus] might get or get what they might have," he explained. "It's archaic politics."
One of Rutherford's letters went to state Rep. Jeff Harris of Columbia.
"Unlike the Columbia community, the entire Springfield community really worked the issue hard," Harris recalled. "The Springfield City Council passed a resolution for the name change."
Harris, the House minority leader, said the name change is fine, if it is only cosmetic and is designed to attract only more students and teachers.
"When a name change is bootstrapped into something larger, when it is bootstrapped for a call for a new med school or engineering school or law school, the things we do here on the Mizzou campus, that's when taxpayers lose and higher education loses," he added.
Harris also said he looks forward to working with MSU President Michael Nietzel.
"This was a bigger gain for Springfield than a loss for the University of Missouri," Nietzel said. "I think it was a gain for the state. I think it's a gain for higher education."
John Anderson, MU student president, disagreed while referring to the school by its former name, Southwest Missouri State University.
"SMS is a regional school with regional programs, and changing the name is a step in turning them into a statewide school [which would be] direct competition with the University of Missouri," he argued. "And, with funding as tight as it has been, we're concerned about having the best for our students."
The University of Missouri four-campus system gets about 50 cents of each higher education dollar and the Columbia campus gets about a quarter of that. Despite the name change, Missouri State is not a Research-1 university.
"Our objective will be to find areas of research that Springfield and this region need us to have expertise in," said Carla Atkinson, a stream ecology major.
Physiology major Chris Brehmer thinks getting a Missouri State degree will be good. Brehmer also plays football for the Bears, after MU's Gary Pinkel didn't recruit him.
"I went to their team camps. They wouldn't look at me," he remembered. "I would like to play them, but I don't think they'll play us."
An intriguing idea, settling the score on the football field. Since the name change, enrollment is up at both schools, to a total of about 20,000 at Springfield and almost 28,000 at Mizzou. MSU tuition costs about $50 less per credit hour.
Thanks to KOMU videographer Gary Grigsby for taping the Follow-Up Files.