University of Missouri Head Football Coach Gary Pinkel will resign his position following the conclusion of the 2015 season, and he will remain as Mizzou’s coach through December 31, 2015, or until a new head coach is in place, as announced today by MU Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades. Pinkel informed his staff and team this evening, and will address questions following Saturday’s game against BYU at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Pinkel and Rhoades are discussing a role that would keep him associated with Mizzou Athletics once he steps away from coaching duties.
Pinkel’s decision is health-based, as he was diagnosed in May of 2015 with lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer of the blood. He received multiple treatments in May and June, and after doctors indicated that the treatments wouldn’t interfere with his coaching duties, he decided that he would continue to coach the Tigers in 2015.
According to the American Cancer Society, the overall 5-year relative survival rate for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 67% and the 10-year relative survival rate is 55%. Survival rates for NHL vary widely, depending on the lymphoma type, stage, age of the patient, and other variables.
“I made the decision in May, after visiting with my family, that I wanted to keep coaching, as long as I felt good and had the energy I needed,” Pinkel said. “I felt great going into the season, but also knew that I would need to re-assess things at some point, and I set our bye week as the time when I would take stock of the future. After we played Vanderbilt (Oct. 24), I had a scheduled PET scan on Oct. 26th for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on October 27ththat this would be my last year coaching. I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that,” he said.
“It’s been an honor working with Gary since I joined the Mizzou family,” said Rhoades. “Gary is truly a coaching legend as the winningest coach at two Division I institutions while leaving a profound impact on a countless number of young men. We are extremely appreciative of all that he has done for Mizzou. It’s tough emotionally knowing that his fight with cancer is bringing his run to an end sooner than any of us thought. I want to commend Gary with how open he’s been with me the whole time, from the first day he came to my office in May and told me about his diagnosis, all the way to now and when he met with me personally on October 28th to tell me he’d made up his mind. He’s been nothing but first class in how he’s handled the situation the whole way.”
“I want to make very clear that I’m not doing poorly, and that this is a manageable disease, but it’s one that will never go away,” Pinkel said. “So many people have bigger struggles with other forms of cancer and other serious diseases, and I feel blessed that I’ve got something I can fight and still enjoy a good quality of life. I don’t know how many years I have left, but I want to turn my focus to life outside of the daily grind of football,” he said.
“Words can’t express how grateful I am to the University of Missouri and all of the amazing people who make it up, from the administration to the students and our fans. Obviously, I’m so appreciative to all of my coaches and athletes. Leaving them makes this decision so tough, but I do so feeling good that the Mizzou Football program is in a better place than it was when we came in 15 years ago. I feel that Mizzou is a great job at a great school and has so much going for it that they’ll find an outstanding coach to move the program forward,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel, 63, transformed Mizzou into a national program after taking over on Nov. 30, 2000, and will conclude his career as the winningest coach in school history. He’s amassed a 117-71 record at Mizzou in 15 seasons, and his 190 career wins stand as the 19th-most all-time in NCAA FBS history. Under his guidance, Mizzou won five conference divisional titles (2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014), reached 10 bowl games (winning six) and had five teams post a final top-20 national ranking (including two top-five finishes). His Tigers posted winning seasons in 10-of-15 years, following a stretch where Mizzou had only two winning seasons in the 17 seasons (1984-2000) prior to his arrival. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 2007 by FieldTurf, and won conference coach of the year honors in 2007 (Big 12) and 2014 (SEC).
Two times, Pinkel likely had his Tigers one win away from playing for a national championship, as wins in the 2007 and 2013 conference championship games could have propelled MU into title game appearances. In 2007, Mizzou surged to the school’s first-ever number one national ranking since 1960 after a watershed win over rival Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 24, 2007, when the Tigers were ranked fourth and the Jayhawks second coming into the game. That team would eventually end the season with a school-record 12 wins that included a Cotton Bowl title and final national ranking of fourth.
Pinkel worked perhaps his finest coaching job in 2013, one year after Mizzou joined the vaunted Southeastern Conference and suffered an injury-plagued 5-7 season in 2012. Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Eastern Division by pre-season pundits, the Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 record and finished 11-1 and East Division champs. They would go on to a 12-win season, with another Cotton Bowl title, and final national ranking of fifth.
Pinkel’s emphasis on molding young men into successful student-athletes was evidenced by the great achievements they had in the classroom. Mizzou has improved its NCAA Graduation Success Rate for nine straight years, and has graduated 97 percent of its seniors the past five seasons.
Getting athletes to the next level has been another mark of success for Pinkel and his program. In his time at Mizzou, 32 Tigers were selected in the NFL Draft, including seven in the first round. Mizzou had 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in the previous 64 years combined (1937-2001) prior to Pinkel taking over.
Pinkel came to Missouri after spending 10 very successful years as head coach at Toledo (1991-2000), where he amassed an impressive 73-37-3 record and left as UT’s all-time winningest coach. Prior to becoming a head coach, Pinkel learned the trade from one of the all-time great coaches, the legendary Don James. For 12 years as an assistant under James at Washington (1979-90), Pinkel helped guide the Huskies to a combined record of 104-37-2 (73.4%) and three Pac-10 Conference titles. He served as UW’s offensive coordinator for seven seasons (1984-90), and helped mold one of the nation’s most potent offensive attacks.
Pinkel played under James at Kent State University, where he was an all-conference and honorable mention All-American tight end. He received his bachelor of science degree in education from Kent in 1973, and did post-graduate studies at Kent and Bowling Green.