Missouri Tigers name ‘proven leader’ Laird Veatch as their new athletic director

The Missouri Tigers are turning to a familiar name to lead their athletic department.

Laird Veatch, who previously worked at Mizzou in different roles, is the school’s next athletic director. The school announced the news Tuesday morning following a Monday night report from ESPN’s Pete Thamel.

“AD Veatch is a proven leader with the vision we need to achieve our championship goals,” University of Missouri president Mun Choi said in a news release. “I want to thank curator (Bob) Blitz and the search committee for identifying the right leader to build upon the incredible momentum of Mizzou Athletics. I also want to thank interim director Marcy Girton for her service and commitment to Mizzou Athletics.”

Veatch has been Memphis’ athletic director since 2019. At Missouri, he replaces Desiree Reed-Francois, who left the job in February to become the athletic director at Arizona.

From 1997-2002, Veatch worked in Missouri’s development department, where he oversaw fundraising with an emphasis on facilities. He managed the Tigers Scholarship Fund’s annual giving program.

He also spent seven years at Learfield sports as general manager for Mizzou Sports Properties and later oversaw eight Division I multimedia rights properties.

Veatch takes over an athletic department that has experienced highs and lows during the current academic year. The football team under coach Eli Drinkwitz is coming off one of the best seasons in school history: an 11-2 record, Cotton Bowl victory over Ohio State and national ranking of No. 8 in the final AP poll.

That 2023 season included a regular-season triumph over Memphis.

The Tigers men’s basketball team, meanwhile, endured a winless SEC season (0-18) in coach Dennis Gates’ second year. Women’s basketball also posted a losing record at 11-19.

Last week, the school announced a $250 million improvement project for Memorial Stadium that will enclose the north end of the stadium and add premium seating options.

Veatch experienced some good football fortune at Memphis. In his first year, the Tigers finished 12-2 and played Penn State in the Cotton Bowl. Last season, Memphis finished 10-3.

The school recently announced a three-phase plan to renovate its home stadium, the Liberty Bowl. Memphis also recently received a pledge from FedEx of $25 million over the next five years to help with the school’s NIL efforts.

“The search committee was dedicated to finding a great director of athletics, but even more important was to find the director of athletics who is the best fit for Mizzou,” said Blitz, chair of the MU search committee, in the release. “I am confident Laird will accelerate our path to the pinnacle of SEC athletics.”

“Laird Veatch’s energy and leadership skills will serve him well in his new position as director of athletics at Missouri,” added SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. “His previous experience at Missouri provides him with insight into the Mizzou campus, and he will also benefit from his experience in the SEC as a senior member of the Florida staff. We welcome Laird, Brandy and their family back to the SEC.”

Veatch grew up in Manhattan, Kansas. He played linebacker for legendary K-State Wildcats football coach Bill Snyder, serving as team captain in 1994.

Veatch worked in the Wildcats’ athletic department from 2010-17, the final two years as deputy athletic director. He served as the school’s interim athletic director after John Currie, and was a finalist to land the position on a full-time basis. But the job went to Gene Taylor.

Veatch then was hired at Florida, where he served as executive associate athletic director for internal affairs.

“The opportunity to return to the University of Missouri and to Columbia is truly incredible for me and my family,” Veatch said. “I am grateful to President Choi, the Board of Curators and the members of the search committee for believing in me and in the future of Mizzou Athletics. Mizzou has always had a passionate and dedicated fan base including broad support throughout the state, and together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. That includes winning SEC and NCAA championships while providing our student-athletes with a tremendous experience. I am honored and humbled to serve the university and to do my part to elevate Mizzou Athletics to unprecedented heights.”