Gare is headed to the CFB hall of fame.
I enrolled at Mizzou in 2005. I’ll be honest, I was way more excited for Quin Snyder and a Tiger hoops squad that was returning six (SIX) top 100 recruits and Jimmy McKinney’s jumper. We all know how that ended.
Mizzou football was an afterthought. I went to Mizzou for J-School and basketball. I did not go to Mizzou expecting for it to be one of the best college football programs in the country once my time in Columbia was up.
Every Saturday in Columbia from 2007 to 2014 was a holiday. Five division championships, four conference championship games, a number one ranking, destroying kansas in Armageddon at Arrowhead (that game was never even close by the way), two Cotton Bowl championships and a lifetime of memories.
That’s what it meant to me. Outside of Mizzou and our predisposition to nihilism and fool’s hope, Gary put Mizzou on the map nationally. I paid absolutely zero attention to Mizzou football before 2005. But Gary had me hooked once he and Brad Smith beat the everloving shit out of Nebraska my freshman year. I carried the goalposts to Harpo’s and my epic, mentally abusive love affair with Mizzou football was underway. My story is not unique.
I love sports, but it takes a lot to capture all of my attention. I’ve only ever been truly obsessed on a handful of occasions. It started with me being borderline autistic for the minor league Kansas City Blades in the early 1990s, then it was the Martyball Chiefs, then it was Norm Stewart and the late ’90s Mizzou teams, then inexplicably it was the early 2000s Royals, which then rolled into Mizzou football in the 2000s and 2010s. This obsession was then completely realized when Patrick Mahomes walked into my life, but Gary Pinkel era Mizzou football is a close second.
Programs like Mizzou aren’t supposed to have expectations. We became bowl eligible in week eight in 2005 and I remember people acting like that was a big deal, and I was like “why?” Turns out it was not common place for Mizzou to be bowl eligible halfway into a season, or even at the end of a season. They were eliminated from bowls by the time they’d played two conference games.
Very few college coaches fundamentally change the perception and prestige of a program. Mizzou was a three star program on NCAA Football 2005 and by NCAA Football 2010, we were a four and a half star program. That’s really the only metric of success that should matter.
It never didn’t blow my mind whenever they showed that “Winningest college football programs in the last 10 years” graphic and Mizzou was right there with USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Alabama and Florida State. You’re not supposed to be listed among the blue bloods when you’re Mizzou. You’re cannon fodder.
I guess that’s really what encapsulates the Pinkel era at Mizzou. Everything he did was a big fucking deal for Mizzou. Mizzou doesn’t go to Cotton Bowls. We don’t host College Gameday. We don’t get top 20 recruiting classes. We certainly do not have hall of fame coaches. Now we do. And that’s all because of Gary.
Mizzou does not go to the SEC without Gary Pinkel. Mizzou does not hire Eli Drinkwitz without Gary Pinkel. Eli Drinkwitz does not sign the best recruiting class in school history without Gary Pinkel.
He is Mizzou football.
I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you all that Mizzou wins the national championship in 2007 if Pig Brown was healthy against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. Period.