Missouri system president Tim Wolfe resigns two days after football team joins campus-wide protest
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Late Saturday night, some University of Missouri students were checking Twitter when their feeds became clogged with some surprising news.
Black athletes on Missouri's football team sent out a tweet through the Legion of Black Collegians, Missouri's black student government, that announced they were boycotting any football-related activity until UM system president Tim Wolfe resigned or was removed from office for his failure of handling a series of racial incidents on campus.
"I was at home chilling, just reading about everything going on, and I saw all the major news publications slowly start to pick it up," said Missouri senior Zach Sullentrup.
Two days later, the widespread campus protests led to Wolfe's resignation on Monday morning.
There were already efforts brewing on campus over the past few weeks to prompt Wolfe's resignation. Masters student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike Nov. 2 until the president stepped down. Students in support of Butler camped on Carnahan Quad, a main campus drag, for the past week, and their campsite grew with tents, food and heaters. They boycotted giving any money that supported the school as well.
But after the football team's announcement Saturday night, the news had captured national attention.
It took only two days—and one day after Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel tweeted his support for his players' decision to cease football activities until Butler's hunger strike was over— for Wolfe to submit his resignation. The team will resume football activities immediately.
"I felt like they should have done it sooner," said junior MU student Taylor Butler. "I feel like the university listens when their money gets threatened."
Not long after the announcement, students and bystanders watched as members of Concerned Student 1950—a group named after the first year black students were admitted to MU—celebrated the news with songs, chants and cheers on Carnahan Quad.
Some students saw how the team's announcement propelled the story into the limelight. Senior Amanda Lewandowski said if it weren't for the football players, this wouldn't be the top story on major sports networks like ESPN.
But the football players' decision received mixed reactions on social media. Some said their scholarships should be removed, and ESPN published a report from an anonymous football player that not all MU football athletes were in support of the boycott.
"Too many people, not only at this university, but in this world only see black people as athletes, like we're here for their entertainment and that their scholarships should be threatened to be taken away," Taylor Butler said. "I thought that was very problematic."
Some noticed the efforts that had already been done on campus, like the protests last week from Concerned Student 1950, to get the ball rolling on the issue before the national media entered Columbia.
"I think there was already a lot of great work being done, and I don't think you can ignore those accounts and say this was done by the football team," Sullentrup said.
Others took note of the financial threat the football boycott could have caused. A $1 million penalty was in order if Missouri canceled its game Saturday in Kansas City against BYU.
"I think when [the protestors] boycotted and didn't put any of their money into the UM System, I think Tim Wolfe's decision was part of that," said senior Rhonda Mays.
Missouri will resume football activities Tuesday, according to a statement from Pinkel and director of athletics Mack Rhoades.
In the meantime, Carnahan Quad and the rest of MU's campus continues to buzz.
"It's people making change on my campus," Lewandowski said. "Everybody's saying we're seeing history. I guess that's what it is."
Kevin Modelski is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Missouri. Follow him on Twitter.