Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pinkel Brought Mizzou to a National Stage

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pinkel Brought Mizzou to a National Stage

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, Mo. * By the time he could process Friday's stunning news, Mike Alden thought back to Nov. 3, 2001. That day, Alden, then the Missouri athletics director, stood outside Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., alongside his first-year football coach. Colorado had just flattened Mizzou 38-24, dropping the Tigers to 3-5 in Gary Pinkel's debut season.

Right then, right there, Alden knew what he had in his 49-year- old head coach.

"We were standing outside the stadium, just me and him, and Gary said, 'Mike, I just wish so much I could fast forward this program because I know exactly where we're headed,' " Alden recalled Friday in a phone interview. "'I know where we're going to be. I know this works.'

"He was so committed and emotional after a loss like that. That, to me, really showed the passion, the drive and the commitment that he had to build Mizzou to something that people would respect and recognize."

All that came true since that day in the Rocky Mountains.

And now, the end is in sight.

Pinkel, Mizzou's all-time winningest coach, announced his resignation Friday, effective at the conclusion of Missouri's season. Pinkel, 63, was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May and underwent treatmentsin May and June, the school announced.

"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 in a prepared statement. "I felt great going into the season but also knew that I would need to reassess things at some point, and I set our bye week as the time when I would take stock of the future."

After the Tigers played at Vanderbilt on Oct. 24, Pinkel underwent a PET scan on Oct. 26, then decided the next day that he would retire after this season, he said in MU's release.

"I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends," Pinkel said, "and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that."

The Tigers (4-5) play Brigham Young (7-2) in Kansas City on Saturday, after which Pinkel will discuss his decision with reporters . Pinkel, 117-71 at Missouri since taking over in 2001, will stay on through Dec. 31 or until athletics director Mack Rhoades hires his replacement.

Pinkel informed Rhoades of his diagnosis in May and told him on Oct. 28 that this would be his final year coaching the Tigers. Multiple sources confirmed that timetable and refuted that Pinkel's resignation is related to the tumultuous news on Mizzou's campus .

"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.

"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. …

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