SI Vault
Bil Gilbert
September 01, 1980
There's nothing quite like an archrival for turning on a college town, and no town has more spirited folks than Columbia when Missouri takes on Oklahoma
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September 01, 1980

Hold That Tiger—big Game At Mizzou!

There's nothing quite like an archrival for turning on a college town, and no town has more spirited folks than Columbia when Missouri takes on Oklahoma

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Welton says she believes the Golden Girls perform the same function as the band or even the football players themselves—they are trained entertainers. A friend watching her prepare for the Oklahoma entertainment disagrees: "Oh, Karen, you know you're there for T and A. I was a Kansas City Chiefette for six years and all it was was T and A, but it kept me skinny."

Actually, there are several cadres of attractive young women who dress up to perform at the games. Collectively they're sometimes derisively called Tiger Baits, and individually they seem inclined to say catty things about each other. Kathy Chamberlain looks like a brunette model of the Basic College Cheerleader. She says that except when she is cavorting in front of 75,000 people she is a shy person, one who is reluctant, for example, to speak out in class. She says, "Every father wants a cheerleader for a daughter and a Golden Girl for a mistress."

"Who told you that?"

"I made it up."

Less in the public eye, more primly dressed in blazers and skirts but no less handsome, are 11 women who serve as Tiger hostesses. Each game day they are escorts for the 15 to 20 senior high school football players who have been invited to Columbia by football coaches trying to recruit them. In the morning the potential Tigers tour the campus and athletic facilities, meet some of the players and other coaches, watch highlight films of the Tigers. The hostesses are with them through most of the day. "We tell them about the school," says Donna Suda, a junior majoring in public relations. "We answer questions that they might be too shy to ask an older person. A lot of them have heard that Mizzou is a big party school, and we tell them about the kind of parties we have."

The current hostesses were selected from among 160 candidates on the basis of interviews with representatives of the athletic department and former hostesses. They say they're very proud to be what they are, and one says, "For the pompon or Golden Girls all that counts is the body, but we are chosen for intelligence, poise and conversational ability, as well as appearance."

Sometimes there are special assignments that indeed would seem to require special social skills. Donna Suda says, "There was a football recruit from the East the coaches really wanted. They asked me to go out to dinner with him. He had the wrong idea about what was intended and I had to tell him politely. He didn't come to Mizzou."

A big game also inspires spectators, especially alumni, to dress up, and some appear in singular costumes. Pierce Liberman, a 1953 graduate and now a St. Louis insurance man, wears a spectacular pair of yellow-and-black coveralls that are intended to suggest tiger stripes but in fact are almost bumblebeeish. At noon, Liberman is shepherding a group of football prospects who will be with the hostesses during the game. He is one of the organizers of the St. Louis quarterback club, which now has 500 members. He says that helping the Mizzou coaching staff scout and recruit players, helping the players with advice and finding summer jobs for them is his main avocational interest. "I never let my business interfere with my football," he says. "In fact, my family and some of my friends think my business is Mizzou football."

Harold (Spider) Burke graduated from Mizzou in 1954. During his undergraduate days he was a football cheerleader, and he still is. He attends every home game dressed in his 30-year-old spirit costume, a black "M" jacket, black slacks and a yellow-and-black beanie. He carries a megaphone and runs up and down the sidelines yelling and gyrating with remarkable endurance, drawing, it seems, more cheers and laughs than any other single spirit person. In the stands and press box Spider Burke is often cited as a "real character," Mizzou's answer to the San Diego Chicken. However, when not performing, he turns out to be a soft-spoken, undemonstrative man who in real life is a construction-company executive and a Sunday school teacher. He is also a serious student of cheerleading. He feels he gets good response because the 1950 cheers were slower paced and there was time to build up greater volume with them. Based on his 29 years of experience, Burke thinks that the most successful of all Mizzou cheers was the "Big T"—Tiger spelled out letter by letter and then yelled three times. He regrets that it isn't in the current spirit repertoire. Burke also believes it is only ethical to use and encourage constructive cheers, "to pick up our own team and get people involved." When there is booing or rude remarks are directed toward opponents, Burke makes a thumbs-down gesture and holds it until the negative noise stops.

A parking lot on the west side of the stadium directly in front of the ticket gate that leads to the midfield seats is reserved for donors of $1,000 or more to the athletic fund. By 11 o'clock on Saturday morning it is filled with gregarious brunchers. It is a remarkably odoriferous place, the basic aroma being that of fried chicken laced with lesser whiffs of shrimp, cocktail sausages, potato salad, fried zucchini, quiche, gin and bourbon. Some tailgaters provide heavily embossed menus, planned and printed at least as long ago as September. There is a van with working beer spigots set in its side. There is a former Greyhound bus converted into a salon-saloon with a bathroom equipped with 22-carat gold fixtures. There is an electric bullhorn that will play the Mizzou Fight Song at the touch of a single button, and often does so. Handshaking and car hopping are treated like Olympic events.

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