Missouri Tigers: The Forgotten Story of Gary Pinkel

Dr. SECAnalyst IIAugust 21, 2013

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 15:  Head coach Gary Pinkel of the Missouri Tigers gestures from the sidelines during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If your first introduction to Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was during the Tigers' inaugural season in the SEC, you might not be impressed. However, in this second installment of our coverage of the 14 SEC coaches in 14 days, you will find Pinkel is a blue-collar coach with an impressive body of work.


Pinkel was a star football player in high school where he helped Kenmore High School win their first state championship in school history. Pinkel went on to sign with Kent State, where he would be a two-time all-conference selection and AP Honorable Mention All-American. 

Pinkel was a vital part of the 1972 team that won the Mid-American Conference championship, the only conference championship in school history. Upon graduation, Kent State head coach Don James offered Pinkel a position as a graduate assistant, and he accepted.

In fact, the 1974 Kent State graduate assistant staff is one of the top graduate assistant staffs ever assembled, as it included both Pinkel and Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who played in the secondary for the Golden Flashes.

James would leave Kent State prior to the 1976 season for the University of Washington, and Pinkel would follow him, serving one year as tight ends coach.

Pinkel would leave Washington to become wide receivers coach at Bowling Green. He would stay there two seasons before reuniting with James back at Washington as a wide receivers coach, a position he would hold for five seasons.

In 1984, Pinkel finally got the position he longed for as offensive coordinator for the Huskies. In his first season as offensive coordinator, Washington finished the season ranked No. 2 with an 11-1 overall record and a win in the Orange Bowl over Oklahoma.

In his seven seasons as offensive coordinator, he helped mold one of the nation's most potent offensive attacks, and in his final season at Washington, the Huskies finished with a No. 5 national ranking and were Rose Bowl champions.

In 1991, Pinkel became the head football coach at Toledo after his former graduate assistant and teammate Nick Saban departed to be an NFL defensive coordinator.

Pinkel would spend 10 seasons at Toledo and would leave the school's all-time winningest coach, while capturing one Mid-American Conference championship and three MAC West Division titles.

In 1995, he led the Rockets to an 11-0-1 record and finished the season as one of only two undefeated teams. After a 10-1 season in 2000, the Missouri Tigers came calling.

Missouri was a step up from Toledo in potential only. The Tigers had been horrific for 17 years.

In the 17 seasons prior to Pinkel's arrival, the Tigers were only bowl-eligible twice. Moreover, they only had more than four wins in a season four times. The first two seasons under Pinkel were not much better statistically as he posted a 9-14 record.

However, there was reason for Missouri fans to be optimistic. Although the Tigers did not make a bowl game, they were only one win short. They had three tough losses against ranked teams, including getting beat by the third-ranked Oklahoma on a fake field goal in the fourth quarter, an overtime loss to 18th-ranked Colorado in overtime and a last-second loss to Iowa State, who was ranked 22nd.

Yes, they were losses, but at least for the first time in almost two decades the Tigers were competitive.

2003 was a breakout season for the Tigers as they finished the season with eight wins and a berth to the Independence Bowl. The 2003 win total was the most for the Tigers since 1981, and a win over No. 10 Nebraska broke their losing streak to their conference rival (24) and against Top 10 teams (45).

In 2004, the Tigers dropped back down to five wins, but that season was a stepping stone for the future.

In 2005, Missouri finished the season 7-5 with an Independence Bowl victory over South Carolina 38-31. It was just the second bowl win for the Tigers' football program in 23 seasons.

Equally important for Tiger fans, it was the start of a bowl-eligibility streak of seven years.

The height of the run under Pinkel thus far was in 2007, when the Tigers finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation with a 12-2 overall record. After reaching a No.1 national ranking, they were defeated in the Big 12 Championship Game.

However, they would rebound to dismantle nationally ranked Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl 38-7.

Pinkel might very well be on the hot seat, and if things don't turn around soon, he might be out as head coach of Missouri. However, no one should ever doubt the amazing job he has done at Missouri.

Moreover, if you are a betting person, it might be foolish to bet against Pinkel.