When Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel launched his personal website, garypinkel.com, on July 22, he promised to “show a different behind-the-scenes side of the program, to engage Tiger fans in a more personal way, and to celebrate the growing success of Mizzou’s players in the National Football League,” according to a press release.
It was a surprising move. Pinkel is known among local journalists as one of the tighter-lipped public figures in Missouri sports, the anti-Ehren Earleywine. It’s common practice for coaches to speak succinctly and in platitudes in a world where original thought often results in a headline. It’s a zero-sum game for them to do anything but feed the narrative. That’s why Pinkel actually going out and creating an arena for himself raised questions. Why, after 12 years in Columbia, was he stepping onto this type of stage? And would he even have enough to say?
As it turns out, it seems as if the veracity of the news media was exactly the reason for the move. GaryPinkel.com gives Pinkel a place to woo recruits and feed fan interest in behind-the-scenes footage, but more importantly, it gives Pinkel a place to control his message.
When Pinkel said last week BCS football student-athletes should be paid - with set limitations - , he threw a major voice into an already heated national discussion. He wasn’t blindsided by a question at a press conference or overheard at Shakespeare’s. He said it sitting down, relaxed, in what looked like his office.
“I think that most universities at our level — the BCS level — most pay for the entire athletics budgets,” Pinkel said. “And our players are getting room and board, books, tuition. Which is fine. They are certainly getting their education, which is important. But I think also we can give them additional money per semester or per quarter to help them and pay them back for all their sacrifices.”
It was a thought out, valid opinion, and one Missouri fans should appreciate hearing regardless of their personal take on the subject.
In the days that followed, Pinkel made rounds with media stops in St. Louis and Kansas City. He participated in a Google Hangout with fans, further establishing himself as an accessible, amiable member of the local football community as he continues his reign at the top of it. It’s small-town approach expertly expanded for this new social media landscape.
On top of that, the website also allows Pinkel to join the ranks of high-profile Southeastern Conference coaches with personal Internet identities. Les Miles of Louisiana State, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Florida’s Will Muschamp all use their own websites to promote their universities and the cities in which they are located. Miles’ is a sprawling rundown of LSU Tiger glory. Saban’s homepage features an impressive 360-degree view from the 50-yard line at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Muschamp’s offers a virtual tour of both the University of Florida campus and football facility.
GaryPinkel.com offers visitors information about the Memorial Stadium renovation plan, updates on Missouri alumni in the NFL, and a blog updated multiple times per day. The continuing conversation on the blog includes Pinkel and his coaching staff’s philosophies on leadership, education and success, along with highlights, game recaps and videos such as the one in which Pinkel spoke out about paying players.
Overall the website lives up to those promises Pinkel’s camp made in July. It is a welcomed look into the mind of a man many Tiger fans knew little about and a program that usually kept affairs in-house. Missouri fans should take advantage of this window and enjoy the view, and they should be happy to have a coach willing to expand his brand for the good of his program.
We don’t yet know what’s to come for Missouri football once conference play starts. But in just its second season in the SEC, the program’s stock is already rising in places other than the standings.