Campus Corner

Missouri’s Gary Pinkel empathizes with rebuilding Indiana

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel.
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel. The Associated Press

Indiana is 11-27, including a 5-19 mark in Big Ten play, since former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took the reins before the 2011 season.

The growing pains are obvious, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel can relate to the struggle of trying to build up a downtrodden program in a power conference ahead of Saturday’s game between the schools.

“It’s hard, especially when you come into a place like we did here … that just had losing for so long,” Pinkel said Wednesday during the SEC’s weekly teleconference. “I think they had two winning seasons in 16 or 17 years before I got here. It’s just very difficult. You’re changing attitudes and you also have to recruit and develop players, but you’re changing attitudes.”

After going 8-5 in 1983, the Tigers endured 13 consecutive losing seasons.

Missouri went 7-5 then 8-4 from 1997-98 under Pinkel’s predecessor, Larry Smith, before tapering off again, combining for seven wins the next two seasons.

Enter Pinkel, who credited athletic director Mike Alden’s patience for allowing him to build a respectable program at MU.

“I needed someone that, as we build our program, to keep me there,” Pinkel said. “Because what they did traditionally was just fire coaches every four or five years, and it just gets worse and worse.”

Pinkel also said he never deviated from the core values — imparted by Don James — he believed fostered successful program, even after the Tigers had three losing seasons in his first four years in Columbia.

“I don’t care how things got, we stayed with our foundation and who we are,” Pinkel said. “We didn’t start changing things.”

Attitudes started changing, though, and eventually the national perception, too, now that Missouri has had eight winning campaigns in the last nine years, including four seasons of at least 10 victories.

“The biggest hump is changing the attitude of athletes and turning them in from — not loser, because they’re not losers, but they had not won — and being able to get that confidence level up, so that they believe in what you’re doing,” Pinkel said.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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