Many college athletics programs have retired numbers to honor the achievements of their former star athletes, but criteria for earning that honor can vary by school.
The University of Missouri, for instance, has refreshed its criteria, and has retired the numbers of two former athletes in as many months, the Kansas City Star reports.
Finding an equilibrium has been a challenge for Mizzou. It used to be that the standard for retiring a football player’s number was for that player to receive one of five national honors. That policy was revised when, in 2003, former running back Brock Olivo’s No. 27 was retired. Olivo had won the Mosi Tatupu Award, given to the nation’s top special teams player, but not one of the honors on Missouri’s list of five national honors.
After fans thought other players were more deserving of the honor, the school set forth stricter criteria, requiring athletes to meet five requirements to be eligible for jersey retirement:
- Earn a degree from the school
- Be of “unquestioned good character, reputation and integrity”
- Represent the school by displaying the highest degree of sportsmanship
- Participate as a member of an MU sports team five years before retirement
- Win the Heisman Trophy, or earn a national player of the year award in baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer or softball
Those criteria, however, became too strict as to become unrealistic. Under that policy, former Missouri baseball player Max Scherzer, who went on to win three Cy Young awards and be named an MLB All Star six times wouldn’t have been eligible.
Missouri AD Jim Sterk appointed a group to conduct a one-year study into changing the jersey retirement policy. Led by deputy AD Nick Joos, the team looked at other Power Five and SEC school policies for retired numbers, and released a new policy. Under the new retirement policy, former student-athletes must now meet a total of four criteria from a list of 10.
First, they must be both ten years removed from their collegiate playing career, and a member of the Mizzou Athletics Hall of Fame. After that, other induction criteria include:
- Multiple all-conference honors
- Major conference award, such as offensive or defensive player of the year
- All-America honors (first-, second-, or third-team)
- Win a nationally recognized award
- Hold a career record in a significant category, conference or national
- Olympic medalist while an athlete at MU
- Five years of NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA service with a distinguished achievement (MVP, Cy Young, Silver Slugger, etc.)
- Induction into college or pro sports hall of fame for their respective sport
Under the new policy, the school retired Scherzer’s No. 31 jersey in January. Former basketball player Derrick Chievous’ No. 3 was retired on Tuesday, and the men’s basketball team will also raise John Brown’s No. 50 into the rafters on March 9.