OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — At the Chicken N Pickle in Overland Park, the University of Missouri hosted its Come HOME Tour: a caravan that has Mizzou coaches, staff and student-athletes interacting with fans.
The head coaches of football and men’s and women’s basketball all spoke about how the new college name, image and likeness laws and transfer portal all intertwine with their season expectations and navigating the offseason.
They first started by talking about how they aim to recruit the Kansas City area further.
“Recruiting is kind of the lifeblood of this program,” head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “If we’re to be the best that we wanna be, we have to recruit Kansas City. When you look back at the prime Coach [Gary] Pinkel years, a large portion of that team was from this city.”
“Outstanding grassroots basketball community, unbelievable talent, unbelievable coaches,” men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said. “I have an affinity and respect for it from the high school scene to the AAU scene. I have several Chicago friends of mine that live here in that community and I’m excited to reconnect in relationship with all of those guys.”
“Kansas City is I think as strong as its ever been,” women’s basketball head coach Robin Pingeton said. “I feel like there is a lot of depth in Kansas City right now, so it’s a priority for us and we’re real excited about some of the possibilities and prospects that are out there.”
Drinkwitz is coming off of his second season at Mizzou in which the Tigers went 6-7 and ended the season with an Armed Forces Bowl loss to Army. Mizzou is also bringing in their best recruiting class in history this season. He said the main goals are to win games, compete for the SEC East, and graduate his roster and NIL and the transfer portal are how they can make that happen.
“That’s the future of college athletics right now is NIL,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s the new age of college football and college athletics and we gotta embrace it.”
Gates echoed Drinkwitz’s sentiments saying that the transfer portal and NIL are good for student-athletes but they must make sure they are making the best decisions for themselves long term.
“I don’t look at it as wild.”
“It is an equalizer, it is a game-changer. My hats off to the young people that obviously earn under those new rules but also they have to be careful,” Gates said.
Gates is also working to fill a roster that is seeing several transfers and he said a mix of high school players, transfers and junior college players will make up his additions.
Pingeton said recruiting is already a 24/7 job and the portal and NIL just add to it.
“With the way the portal [is] moving right now, you never know how many scholarships you’re gonna have.”
Pingeton’s program has seen several key players leave including leading scorer and rebounder Aijha Blackwell. Pingeton said the core of the team that beat Florida and national champion South Carolina in the regular season is still there, and she looks to add players from the portal to round out the roster.
“Three years ago, we were a top 10 team in the country and were top four in the SEC. And we did that maybe with less talent, but that culture and that locker room was on point,” Pingeton said.
“That’s really important to me: who we have on the bus and making sure they align with what our mission is.”