University of Missouri football players made history this week when their threats to boycott Saturday’s game led university President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to step down amid complaints that school administration did little to respond to a series of racist incidents on campus. While Coach Gary Pinkel supported the players’ cause, he now can’t help but think about how this week’s events might affect his players, who are once again set to take the field against Brigham Young University on Saturday.
“Obviously we have a unique set of circumstances this week at Mizzou that we’re experiencing and there’s really no playbook for that,” he said on Wednesday during a Southeastern Conference call.
Pinkel said he thinks the team is “doing well, considering,” but that he sees an elevated “potential for big distractions,” especially as unrest continues on campus.
On Tuesday night, social media saw panic after a student at a sister Missouri campus threatened to gun down “every black person” he saw. Nineteen-year-old Hunter M. Park was later arrested Wednesday morning, but emotions continue to run high for everyone on the team.
“All the stuff that you get on social networking now,” he said, “You don’t know what’s true and what’s not true and rumors could be passed around for an hour that you think this ugly thing has happened and it really hasn’t. To me, that’s the most difficult thing [players are dealing with].”
Pinkel’s main concern isn’t the physical readiness of the team, which began practicing again on Tuesday, but the team’s mental preparation.
“The bigger concern, I think, as a head football coach, is the video study — not that we do, but that they do on their own,” he said. “You’re sitting home on a normal Tuesday night and there’s nothing normal about that. You’d be watching your video, doing your homework, getting all your stuff done and all this stuff’s going on. I’m really concerned and we’re gonna address that as a football team today.”
Pinkel continued: “It takes a lot to mentally make sure you get yourself in the right frame of mind to play. With all the distractions going on, those are the things more that I’m concerned about. We’ll practice well, I know that. Can we lock in and focus so we can play our best? … Hopefully we can do that.”
Missouri will host BYU at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.