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If college football players don't realize the collective power they wield, the impact they can have, the hammer they can swing, and the responsibility that goes with that power, they should now.

The Missouri Tigers have shown them the way: They started to change their world — and maybe the world beyond the school boundaries in Columbia — for the better over the past couple of days by informing themselves and taking a strong stand for what they believe to be right and just and necessary.

Good for them, good for everyone. Everyone except Tim Wolfe, the University of Missouri president who resigned on Monday after those players said they would not participate in football activities — including meetings, practices and games — until Wolfe left his post or was fired.

He's gone now, and so Missouri football is back. The Tigers' game against BYU would — could — not have been played this Saturday under the status quo, not as long as a block of at least 30 black players, backed by their coach, Gary Pinkel, held firm.

To their credit, Pinkel's included, they did.

It may be the most important thing that team accomplishes this season, drawing attention to student complaints about the lead administrator's handling of discrimination based on race. For weeks and months, African-American groups on campus had protested regarding racial slurs and other insults and affronts at the school that had gone unaddressed. One black graduate student, Jonathan Butler, had started a hunger strike on Nov. 2., promising not to eat again until Wolfe had stepped down. A month ago, during the school's homecoming parade, the president's car was blocked by a group of black students. The protesters were removed by police — without Wolfe ever speaking to any of them.

He spoke from a podium on Monday, though, at a closed-door meeting of the school's governing board, saying his resignation was effective immediately. According to reports, the president urged the school to "use my resignation to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary."

Until the football players got involved, Wolfe had given no indication that he would leave, despite the other protestations against his passive stances.

On the field, the Tigers aren't that good. They're 4-5, having lost four straight games and coming off a 31-13 shellacking at the hands of Mississippi State. Off it, they're damn good, having shown all that resolve and power for change that may never have been affected without them.

Missouri would have had to pay BYU $1 million if it had bailed on Saturday's game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. But what happened on Monday — what caused it to happen — was bigger than a mere million bucks. The cancellation would have left Missouri with swelling publicity no university would have wanted — a notion that concerns of a minority group on campus for students' health and safety and wellbeing and equal treatment were being ignored. Even worse, they would have been.

This story is significant, especially in a state where racial tension had risen because of the happenings last year in Ferguson, located 120 miles from Columbia. It was so much larger than football, and, yet, football was what swung that hammer of justice and prompted the initial stages of change.

"The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe 'Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'" the players said in a statement issued before the resignation. "We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experience. WE ARE UNITED!"

And so they were and are.

No matter what happens on Saturday at Arrowhead against BYU, whether they block or tackle and run for touchdowns against the Cougars, or against Tennessee at home on Nov. 21 or at Arkansas the following week, the Missouri Tigers have already won. They saw wrong and tried to right it. They stood tall and pushed against a different kind of offense, one that needed to be stood and pushed against. They supported a cause that needed their support.

And now, with that assist given from the big guys in pads, the ongoing work for everyone at Missouri — students, faculty, administrators, members of the community — really begins.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.