The 2008-09 NAIA Division I men’s basketball runner-up Cougars returned to the Southwell Complex Tuesday afternoon to a standing ovation of students, faculty, staff, camera crews and reporters. These are historic times: never before has a men’s Cougar basketball team advanced to the title game; this year's Cougars are the first basketball team from the city of Columbia, Mo., to make it to the Final Four.
It was really hard to ignore the folding table in the middle of the court with four gleaming awards:
- The towering 2008-09 AMC Post-season Tournament Championship Trophy, with the game net casually slung over it
- The NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship Runner-up Award
- The Dr. James Naismith-Emil S. Liston Sportsmanship Award, given to the team displaying the most sportsmanship during national tournament play
- The Charles A. Krigel Award, also for sportsmanship, presented to the coach of the squad earning the Naismith-Liston award.
President Brouder and Chair of the Board of Trustees Daisy Grossnickle thanked Coach Bob Burchard, the Cougars and fans who supported the student-athletes and helped bring the awards home. “Thank you for bringing history to Columbia College,” Grossnickle said. “You have demonstrated the values that exemplify this college.”
“What a heart-pounding, fun-filled ride!” Brouder said, praising the student-athlete’s character, sportsmanship, academic performance and for being “court-savvy athletes and just plain shot tacticians.”
Brouder then introduced Burchard, who said it was hard at first to find parking over the 10-day span of the tournament in Kansas City, but that it got a whole lot easier as the tournament went on. By the end of the tournament, Columbia College buses outnumbered all others. Some alumni were so psyched over the Cougars’ run they dashed directly from the airport dragging their bags with them through the arena.
“The star of the team is the team,” he said, emphasizing the Cougars’ blue-and-white, alternating squad approach to games. In the end, he said, all that really mattered was the team’s “superb work ethic, who we are, how we treat each other and how we treat others. Let everything else play itself out.”
Burchard then asked each team member to stand up (“Give him some love!”), and asked members of the Columbia College family to stand up, too, if they had taught a Cougar, if they had helped them navigate financial aid, evaluated a student-athlete’s transcript, given one dollar to the Cougar Club - until nearly every individual in the crowd was on its feet.
The college is the team.
“The star of the team is the team,” Burchard repeated, adding that his team had waited a long time for the perfect wave. When it came, he said, they rode it very well and enjoyed every second.
Burchard then leaped atop the scoring table to surf.