COLUMBIA — He’s come a long way, that’s for sure.
Seven years ago, he had just begun what would be a four-win season in his first year at the helm. Two years ago, he had more than a few people calling for his job.
* 9:15 a.m. - Arrive at ESPN
* 9:30 a.m. – Meetings/Introductions to numerous staff, brief interview with ESPN Rise magazine
• 10 a.m. - "First Take" on ESPN2
• 10:15 a.m. - College Football Digital Media
• 10:30 a.m. - ESPN.com chat
• 11:10 p.m. - Live with Colin Cowherd/ESPN Radio broadcast on ESPNU
• 11:30 p.m. - Lunch with Mizzou alumni
• 12:30 p.m. - Interview with Mike Tirico/Scott Van Pelt on ESPN Radio
• 1 p.m. - Taping with "College Football Live"
• 1:35 p.m. - Live on "College Football ESPNews Overdrive"
• Pinkel leaves following Overdrive
• 3:00 p.m. – Chase Daniel tapes spot from Daniel Devine Indoor Pavilion Columbia with Jim Rome for "Jim Rome Is Burning" (aired at 3:30 p.m.)
Source: Chad Moller, Missouri Media Relations
But Tuesday, Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel spent the day enjoying his status as one of the hottest coaching names in college football, making the rounds at ESPN Studios in Bristol, Conn., promoting his top-five team and his Heisman-candidate quarterback.
Pinkel fielded questions on a number of topics, including his own team and quarterback, and his thoughts on a playoff system in college football. Throughout the day, though, he appeared poised and relaxed, giving consistent answers to both softballs and curveballs while dressed in a pair of gray suit pants and a matching blazer, complete with a black mock turtleneck.
Nebraska and the oft-mentioned 30-year drought for the Tigers in Lincoln was a popular subject, but in true coach fashion, Pinkel downplayed the streak.
“We’ve overcome many, many hurdles, and our players understand it’s out there,” Pinkel said. “When it comes down to it, though, it's just about playing your best game.”
And, by the way, Pinkel calls himself “a plus-one guy” when it comes to a playoff system. “Plus-one” refers to the idea that holding an additional game after the bowls to settle any disputes for the national championship is the ideal solution to fix the BCS. That is, if it needs fixing— before talking about the “plus-one” system, he added that he liked the system the way it is now.
“You’re playing for the national championship every weekend,” Pinkel said. “That’s the beauty of college football.”
On a lighter note, "ESPN First Take" host Jay Crawford asked the coach about his motorcycling habits, a hobby he forbids any of his players from engaging in.
“Well, I’ve got wind issues,” Pinkel said. “It’s very relaxing for me. I’ve got a Jeep, I’ve got a boat. I like wind.”
Making perhaps the most prominent appearance on the national media stage of his career, one might expect Pinkel to be the one with the fidgety mannerisms and camera-shy demeanor. After his interview on "First Take," though, it seemed to be the opposite.
“I don’t mean to imply that Michael Kim doesn’t pay attention to other interviews that we’re doing,” co-host Dana Jacobson said before the show’s next segment. “But when I say that he was just kind of glued listening to that one, it would sort of be an understatement.”
Kim is an MU alumnus from Fulton who recently returned to Columbia for the School of Journalism’s centennial celebration. Later, he caught flack for his wardrobe choice as well: a black tie outfitted with gold diagonal stripes.
Kim playfully dismissed the notion that his newfound attention span and fashion sense happened because of the morning’s guest.
“Oh, Missouri’s here?” Kim said. “I hadn’t noticed that.”
Later Tuesday morning, Pinkel tried his hand at a live chat, answering a host of questions from fans on ESPN’s Web site. Pinkel easily navigated his way through, but at least one fan put him on the hot seat.
“Be honest now, coach,” said Paul from Pa. “How much of the team’s success is due to you and how much is due to the studliness of your Heisman candidate QB?
Pinkel once again slipped on his diplomat visor, and gave nearly 100 percent of the credit to Chase Daniel.
Pinkel followed up the live chat with a cameo on the ESPN radio program “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.”
After a scheduled lunch with Mizzou alums, Pinkel took to the radio airwaves for the second time in the day, appearing as a guest on Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt’s show, “Tirico and Van Pelt.”
Before the interview, Tirico complained about the performance of his alma mater, Syracuse, and opined that the Orange should hire Pinkel.
Before he had even been introduced, Pinkel chimed in quickly.
“Oh, no, no, no,” Pinkel said. “Let’s not go there.”
After absorbing a barrage of compliments from Tirico and Van Pelt on his coaching, Pinkel passed the credit to those still in Columbia.
“It’s amazing how well you coach when you’ve got good players,” Pinkel said. “Remarkable how that works.”
For all the talk of the Nebraska drought, Pinkel said twice, on both "Tirico and Van Pelt" and on "The Herd" earlier, the Tigers hadn’t “won at Nebraska in like 100 years.”
The faulty, half-kidding estimation served as a reminder that he and his staff are downplaying the streak.
But that number would be an understatement if he were speaking of the last time Missouri won in Austin, Texas, Missouri’s next big roadblock after Nebraska. On Oct. 18, the Tigers will try to end a 112-year winless span against No. 7 Texas at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Missouri’s last two wins there were in 1894 and 1896.
Later in the day, Daniel finished up Mizzou’s banner day on the network that calls itself “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” sitting down for a television interview with ESPN's Jim Rome on “Jim Rome is Burning.”
The subject of Texas did come up when Daniel was asked if he felt vindicated by the Tigers’ success after spurning the Longhorns late scholarship offer. Daniel was given a scholarship offer by the Longhorns only after the highly recruited quarterback Ryan Perriloux reneged on his verbal commitment to Texas and signed a letter of intent with Louisiana State. After a series of off-the-field issues, Perriloux was dismissed from the team and now starts for Jacksonville State.
“I don’t think so,” Daniel said. “I’m where I should be right now.”
That’s not to say he didn’t want to change his mind at one point.
“Anyone growing up in the state of Texas wants to go to Texas,” Daniel said. “That’s just how it is. But it’s a business, and it didn’t work out for us.”