With one of the most anticipated seasons since the 1960s less than 28 days away, many people who follow the Missouri football program are ecstatic that the Tigers may win the Big 12 championship, and possibly the National Championship. With any winning program, bandwagon fans come on aboard to enjoy the ride, but some people just won't jump on: the top recruits in the state of Missouri. The Tigers have more competition than other universities: the professional sports teams in their own state.
One of the things Gary Pinkel has improved is keeping most of the top talent in the state. Pinkel has come a long way from being turned away by Missouri high school coaches back in his early years. Despite the recent success, Pinkel still has many battles with the top talent in the state.
On July 30, news came out that long time commit Sheldon Richardson (Gateway Tech High School, St. Louis) will be taking an official visit to Miami. He will also take all his official visits and will remain a soft commitment to the Tigers. Earlier in July, Ronnie Wingo (St.Louis University High, St. Louis) said he was 90% sure he would commit to the Tigers but then went to a visit to OU and was "wowed" by the facilities and said he would play the recruiting game a little longer. Both are 4 star recruits and top 100 recruits in the country according to Rivals.com
With Nathan Scheelhause (rivals.com 4 star QB of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City) committing to Illinois, that could potentially lead to the top three prospects in the state of Missouri for the class of 2009 according to Rivals.com not coming to Mizzou. How does this happen?
Mizzou is the only school in the state that has a BCS conference football team. The only other states that are just like this are Arkansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. The fact that these are the only D-1 schools in their respective states suggests that they would have a leg-up on in-state recruiting.
Last year, Mizzou landed seven of the top ten and three of the top five, but in the class of 2007, the Tigers only received four of the top ten and two of the top five prospects in the state.
The ones that are excelling at in-state recruiting are Arkansas. The recruiting class of 2007 was not so kind to Arkansas, as it was the first time in five years got less than four of the top five prospects (They got two).The Razorbacks rebounded nicely by getting each of the top five recruits in the state of Arkansas in 2008.
So what's the difference between Arkansas and Missouri? Arkansas only has one major city, Little Rock, while Missouri has two, Kansas City and St. Louis. Another factor is that Missouri is home to five pro teams while Arkansas has none. The St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs have very devoted fan bases both of which take away from the limelight of the Missouri Tigers during their respective seasons. The St. Louis Cardinals draw almost 3 million fans each year into Busch Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the most recognizable NFL stadiums in Arrowhead and draw the 4th largest attendance in the NFL in 2007. Unlike Missouri, in Arkansas the college level is the highest level of athletics. The University of Arkansas is the biggest name in the state when it comes to sports. Because of this, the Razorback jersey seems more prestigious to high school recruits than a Tiger jersey would seem to a St. Louis recruit.
What can Head Coach Gary Pinkel do? Not much. Any coach at the University of Missouri will face this problem regardless of how well their program is doing. Hopefully he can seal the borders, but sealing the borders doesn't mean much when you get seven of the top ten prospect but only two of the top five prospects. That means the top prospects are going elsewhere and most likely a Big 12 rival.
This may be a battle that Mizzou will never win.
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