A Missouri primer for Gators fans

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays, we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Missouri is one of two new members of the Southeastern Conference and will make its first trip to Gainesville on Nov. 3.

Even though UF doesn’t play at Missouri until the 2013 season, here’s a way-too-early primer on the school, its history and traditions, and some places to dine/drink when you do head out there. It’s always good to be prepared:


Location: Columbia, Mo., which is approximately 70 miles west of St. Louis and approximately 100 miles east of Kansas City.

Enrollment: The school has approximately 33,000 students.

Stadium: Faurot Field (71,004).

Mascot: The school adopted the Tigers nickname shortly after the first football team was formed in 1890 to honor the Missouri Tigers, a group which protected the city of Columbia from marauders during the Civil War. The tiger did not have a name until the school had a contest in 1984. The winning name was Truman, after former President Harry S. Truman, who was from Independence, Mo.

History: Missouri was founded in 1839 as the first public university west of the Mississippi River and the first state university in the Louisiana Purchase territory. The 900 residents of Boone County pledged $117,921 in cash and land to win a bid for the university.

Football traditions: Here's a few notable ones:

Tiger Walk -- Two hours before kickoff, the football team arrives at the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex and walks across the pedestrian bridge and down the south tunnel to the locker room.

Rock M -- Located at the stadium’s North end zone, the M measures 90 feet wide by 95 feet high and is made of whitewashed rocks. It was built by the 1927 freshman class. According to the school’s website, pranksters changed it to an N the night before the 1957 Nebraska game. However, the groundskeeper and several young kids changed it back before kickoff.

Homecoming -- Every school has it now, but Missouri was the birthplace of homecoming. According to the school’s website, the annual Missouri-Kansas game in 1911 was going to be played on a college campus for the first time and then-AD Chester Brewer asked that all Mizzou alumni “come home” for the big game.

Hungry? Thirsty? Check out these spots:

Again, UF doesn’t make a trip to Columbia until 2013, so you need to file this away. But it’s a chance to impress any Mizzou fans you run into before the Tigers play at Florida on Nov. 3. Missouri fans responded to ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff when he asked for suggestions for places to go in Columbia. Here are some of their recommendations:

Shakespeare’s Pizza was voted the Best College Hangout by Good Morning America in 2010. The restaurant was selected by a GMA production coordinator as one of four finalists from about 100 entries and viewer votes determined the winner. What makes it so special? Here’s one reason: They buy their pepperoni sticks whole because they couldn’t find any pre-sliced that were thick enough.

Booche’s is a restaurant and pool hall founded in 1884 and it boasts a cheeseburger that was named one of America’s top 10 burgers by USA Today in 2000. Two things to note: no fries, and it’s cash only.

Flat Branch Pub & Brewing Co. gets its name from a nearby creek that was the water source for the area’s first settlers. It’s located in a brick warehouse constructed in 1927 and boasts a beer garden and the self-proclaimed largest bar in Columbia. Plenty of bourbons and scotches for sipping.

Broadway Diner is famous for The Stretch – a huge load of hash browns topped with scrambled eggs, chili, cheddar cheese, green peppers and onions. You can also order Matt’s Dilemma, which is The Stretch covered in sausage gravy and topped with sausage or bacon.

A few other spots the readers recommended: Ernie’s CafĂ© (another good spot for breakfast), Harpo’s (voted one of the Top 50 College Bars in America by Complex City Guide), Shiloh Bar & Grill (a hot spot on game day) and The Heidelberg (located on campus).