Shannon Welker to replace Drass as gymnastics coach

Former Michigan assistant will replace Rob Drass after month-long search.

Michigan assistant coach Shannon Welker was named Missouri's new gymnastics coach Thursday, ending a month-long national search to replace Rob Drass, who held the position for 14 years.

The university and Welker, 38, agreed to a five-year contract worth $625,000, Athletics Director Mike Alden said.

"Every coach has that dream job," Welker, a St. Louis native, said. "And, really, this is mine."

Missouri went winless in its first season in the Southeastern Conference, the nation's premier gymnastics conference, just three years removed from an NCAA championship appearance.

A year ago, the Tigers placed second at the Big 12 championships and fourth at NCAA regionals.

"I can't tell you if we're going to win or lose or what our record's going to be, but I know this: We're going to be competitive and we're not going to beat ourselves," Welker said.

Alden called Welker "driven" during remarks at an afternoon reception at Mizzou Arena.

"I think the expectations for a program at Mizzou is you should consistently be a top-20 program," Alden said. "And we have been there before in the past. I think we dipped a little bit in the past several years."

Welker wants to change that. In a plan he outlined with Alden during the interview process, he laid out an aggressive plan in the next three to five years to push Missouri back to the NCAA's regional rounds while beginning to qualify for national championships and fighting to the top of the SEC.

"You have to be realistic," Welker said. "It's definitely challenging, but we certainly can get better regardless of the conference. In the country, I think, we certainly have the opportunity to move forward and push year in and year out to get to NCAA championships.

"It's going to take a little time, but we will get there."

Alden, meanwhile, was more impressed with Welker’s plans for his first 30 days. Coming into the interview, Deputy Athletic Director Doug Gillin said, Welker had watched film and prepared full scouting reports on Missouri’s roster and had a complete regimen set up for a camp feeder-system and recruiting through the state of Missouri, the Midwest and beyond.

“He’s focused on trying to improve all of the time,” said Alden, who called the 30-day timetable to court a successor for Drass “standard.” “You knew he wasn’t going to be just satisfied in being the head coach at the University of Missouri and being in the SEC. His focus was how do we compete for national championships.”

Welker was a four-year star at the University of Illinois at Chicago, from 1993 to 1997, where he was three-year captain and 1996 All-American. At Michigan, he coached the Wolverines’ Joanna Sampson to a national championship in floor exercise. In his five years with Michigan, he coached five athletes to 12 All-American honors.

"He’s just a fantastic coach,” said senior Tori Howard, who trained with Welker while he ran a club team in St. Louis. “I can never thank him enough for what he did for me …. He challenged me to become way more than I ever though I could.”

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