Local business owner Thom Baker seeks to leave Columbia a gift when he retires. Tucked away in his equipment-lain home office, Thom Baker of...
How did your association with powermizzou.com come to pass? How has it grown during your tenure? Jon Kirby, who was in charge of running both the Mizzou and the Kansas sites for Rivals.com, hired me in the summer of 2003. I started out as a staff writer, covering football, basketball and recruiting. At the time, it was just the two of us. I took over as the publisher, my current role, I believe prior to the 2007 football season. In the years since, we’ve added a full-time staff member, a handful of part-time or freelance contributors, and we hire an intern or two every summer from the Missouri School of Journalism.
What big goals do you have for powermizzou.com in the next three to five years? First, I want it to continue to be a place where the MU fans know they not only get insight and news but also get it in a manner that is professionally done. Second, I do have some personal goals in terms of subscriptions and revenue on our site. Although those aren’t figures I share comfortably, we’ve increased membership approximately 700 percent since 2003, and we are currently one of the 20 largest sites in the Rivals.com network, which includes well over 100 sites across the country.
How do you keep up with all of those high school athletes? It’s actually a lot easier now than it used to be. The high-level high school prospect who doesn’t have Twitter is a rarity these days. We have a national database of phone numbers and email addresses, but honestly, these days it’s as easy as finding the kid on Twitter and sending him or her a message. Kids like to talk for the most part. They know what Rivals.com is, and they know the network’s reputation. Once you’ve made contact, it’s all about establishing a good relationship so that the kids will keep you updated as they go through the recruiting process. When we get really lucky, we find the rare kid who updates us on his or her recruitment without us even asking. Those are my favorites.
What are the primary challenges facing high school athletes with hopes of getting recruited? The first one is simply getting to the level where you can be a legitimate Division I prospect. I really don’t think most people have an appreciation for how elite you have to be to get to that level. There are approximately 1.1 million kids who play high school football. There are 120 Division I schools, and each can sign a maximum of 25 guys every year. That means in any given year, there are 3,000 scholarships available for approximately 300,000 graduating high school football players. I think the other thing that is tough is managing your time. These kids are getting calls all the time. They’re going to camps, making visits, taking calls and emails from coaches and dealing with the recruiting process. Amidst all of that, you have to keep your grades up to get to play. Oh, and they’re 16 or 17 and probably want to have a little bit of fun, too.
With the large amount of change that the Mizzou basketball program has undergone in the past decade, what is your current outlook under Coach Anderson? I’ve said this to a few people: Missouri has won a lot of games at times in the past 15 years and had two or three pretty amazing individual seasons. But for the first time since I was in school, it seems like Missouri basketball is now on stable footing. Kim Anderson is one of them, one of us. If he wins, he’s not going anywhere. Now, obviously, he has to win, and that will be the ultimate test, but I think his hiring has somewhat unified a fan base that hasn’t been unified in a pretty long time.