MO State HS Sports

“We have been ready for our forever home”: Laird Veatch Relishes Return to Mizzou

Laird Veatch First Day_02

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Homecoming came early at Mizzou.

It had been nearly two decades since he left Columbia and the University of Missouri, but as Laird Veatch shook countless hands, rekindled old friendships and visited new colleagues and his future office Friday, a flood of memories came rushing back as his whirlwind day unfolded.

Landing at Columbia Regional Airport just past midnight along with his wife, Brandy, their three daughters and son, Mizzou’s new Director of Athletics spent Friday on a non-stop reunion tour, revisiting the place where he cut his teeth in intercollegiate athletics before holding his introductory press conference. A lot has changed since 1997, when Veatch, two years out of college, joined Mizzou Athletics as the Director of Annual Giving. Transfer portal. Name, Image, Likeness. Conference realignment. He spent most of Friday in facilities that didn’t exist when he last worked here: the Stephens Indoor Practice Facility and the South End Zone Bunker Club at Memorial Stadium. But as the day continued Friday, it became apparent: The more things had changed, the more he realized one reality had never shifted.

This is home.

“This is where we want to be. We have been ready for our forever home,” said Veatch, who officially begins as Mizzou’s athletics director on May 1 after spending the last five years in the same position at the University of Memphis. “We want to be in a place where we can invest in lifelong friendships. This was always it — we just didn’t know. So to be clear, there is no transfer portal for the Veatch family. We are committed. I don’t want any questions about that from here on out.”

A native of Manhattan, Kansas, and former four-year football letterman at Kansas State, Veatch, 52, spent parts of 10 years at Mizzou, first in the development branch of the athletics department (1997-2002) and later as General Manager of Mizzou Sports Properties (2003-06). All three of his daughters, Jordyn, Taylor and Sydney, were born in Columbia — his son, Dru, came along later after the Veatches had moved on — and the family goal was to someday make it back to Mizzou. One of more than a dozen of former Mizzou administrators who learned under the watch of longtime AD Mike Alden and ascended in the industry, Veatch took heartfelt pride Friday in becoming the first of that fraternity to succeed him in the chair as leader of Mizzou Athletics.

“While I recognize the responsibility and honor that naturally comes with a leadership position like this,” he said, “I will tell you being the first member of ‘Alden’s Army’ who was actually promoted to this post, provided an extra layer of honor and responsibility that I will take very, very seriously.”

On the dais with University of Missouri President Mun Choi and University of Missouri Board of Curators Chair Robin Wenneker, Veatch shared thoughts on a variety of topics during Friday’s introductory press conference:

On the importance of across-the-board success in athletics: “This Mizzou momentum thing is very real, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. Let me be very direct from the beginning: There’s nothing more important than football success, particularly in this conference. Coach Drink, I can’t wait to partner with you on what you’re doing. I know we have a lot of success in many of our sports, our Olympic sports and others. You’ll see Brandy and I at everything, supporting everything, and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”

On NIL and the Memorial Stadium Improvements Project: “I also love the progressive approach this state took to NIL. One of the things that I really like about it is the alignment that it took between the athletic department, the university and the state to make that happen, and what that could also mean for our continued future in this environment. I can’t wait to get rolling with the big-time vision you set for the North End Zone project at Memorial Stadium. And I also recognize that none of that happens without great leadership and without great vision. So thank you for what you’re doing, thank you for your commitment to athletics, for recognizing what it can be, the impact it can have on the institution, for your willingness to invest. It’s one of the reasons why I’m excited to be here.”

On his competitive nature and the desire to win championships: “I am also a competitor. I may come across as a nice guy, but I was a linebacker at one point in my day, that is inside me somewhere. … I want to be part of winning it all. I want to win SEC championships, national championships, and I really believe there’s something special going on here. … I just love the fact that you expect to win championships, that that is the vision, that is the desire, top to bottom. I feel it. I talked to leadership, and you can tell that there is a real commitment to climbing to the top.”

His first message to Mizzou coaches: “I was coming off being a football player at Kansas State during that sort of turnaround era and the experience we had, and it was the early years of the Gary Pinkel era. … Coaches, you know why he’s a legend? Two reasons. He won and he stayed. He stayed. Make sure we remember that. I believe you drive our success, and I know we have some good ones. In fact, I read a stat as I was doing my research, we had five SEC Coach of the Year honors in the last two years. That’s awesome. I’m sure it cost us a little bonus money, but we are happy to pay those bonuses, and I do look forward to supporting your efforts and watching more victories in the years ahead.”

On competing in the Southeastern Conference: “There’s really nothing better than being part of the climb to the top. Getting there is awesome, and I can’t wait to get there, but I want to be a part of it, and I’m so fortunate to be joining you while you’re on the way up. But to reach the highest point of all, you have to be climbing the biggest mountain, right? The tallest mountain. And I will tell you, from my SEC days, there is no question we’re on the biggest mountain. I can’t wait to be a part of the team, this group, these people, that gets us to the top. So in summary, I’m a Midwest person that wants to be in the Midwest. My wife and family are as well, but we also want to be in the SEC and we want to win national championships.”

His first message to the student athletes: “I got into this because I was you. So everything we do is going to be about your experience and about investing in value and support for you, and all the things that you do competitively, in the classroom, and your time here in Mid-Missouri.”

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This article is provided by University of Missouri Athletics