When he first heard talk of the possibility of Mizzou joining the Southeastern Conference, Gary Pinkel acted like a wise man, not an emotional one. The coach who has turned Tiger football into a significant national program in the Big 12, wanted to proceed on this potential new journey with the caution of an earnest school crossing guard.
He wanted to look before he leaped. So there was no knee-jerk celebration, no automatic stamp of approval. He didnt allow his mind to drift off into how easy it would be to sell Mizzou football to teenaged high school recruits on the value of playing in the best football league outside of the NFL. Personally, he even refused to dream about the possibility of matching his Xs against the Os of some of the best (and highest paid) minds in the college coaching business.
Instead Pinkel wanted answers. All he wanted to know from all the rather giddy folks who were rushing to push Missouri towards the SEC was the answer to one rather poignant question: Were these excitable administrators, boosters, alums and fans getting ready to write a check with their bubbling enthusiasm that their, ummm, financial support couldnt cash?
When we discussed this going into the SEC, I often expressed if youre not going to be committed to excellence and invest, that you should never go into this league, said Pinkel, who already knew from several of his coaching buddies exactly what sort of heavy lifting is required to be competitive in college footballs top conference.