Missouri’s Gary Pinkel has taken a moribund football program and make it competitive on the national scene. Competitive in the rankings (the Tigers reached #1 in the nation in 2007) and on the recruiting trail (Mizzou has inroads into Texas and outdueled Arkansas for star receiver prospect Dorial Green-Beckham).
He’s accomplished much, but now Pinkel is determined to break new barriers:
“We’re getting our brand name down in Atlanta. We’re in South Florida, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando. But we’re back to like we were when we first went into Texas. You have to sell yourself. They have a great pride in the SEC down there and you’re welcome down there. But it’s just like when we first went into Texas, and the coaches would tell us, ‘Okay, these (five-star) guys are going to Texas, Oklahoma and A&M. You can’t talk to them. But you can look at these guys.’ Well, they don’t do that in Texas anymore. They say, ‘These are our best guys, go recruit them.’ Well, now when we go into SEC territory to recruit, we hear, ‘Well, these guys are going to Alabama or Auburn. But you can talk to these guys.’”
The coach told The St. Louis Dispatch that his program is ready for the challenge of its new home. “That’s all we’ve been talking about to our football team,” Pinkel said. “That’s what it’s all about. Proving ourselves. No one knows us in the SEC. We have to earn their respect, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”