This time last year, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was on the hottest seat in the SEC.
Twelve months, 12 wins and one SEC East championship later, he has newfound job security.
According to Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou.com, Pinkel and Missouri have agreed to a new contract that will pay him more than $3 million per season—up from the $2.35 million base salary he made in 2013.
The official numbers for Pinkel's contract have been released.
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After orchestrating a remarkable turnaround from a five-win season to a division title, the new deal wasn't exactly a surprise. But Pinkel's ability to withstand injuries—including one that cost starting quarterback James Franklin essentially four-plus games—and come within one quarter of not only winning the SEC title, but perhaps a berth in the BCS National Championship Game, is certainly worthy of a raise.
But with it comes a lot of pressure—different pressure than the coaching hot seat.
Missouri wasn't exactly a pushover when it entered the SEC prior to the 2012 season, but it wasn't exactly a known commodity either. Sure, three double-digit-win seasons since 2007 were nice, but the Tigers were coming off of an 8-5 record in 2011 and not expected to be a player in the big, bad SEC.
Its inaugural season in the conference didn't exactly go according to plan either, due in large part to a rash of injuries that contributed to a 5-7 record.
But then it happened.
Missouri got star running back Henry Josey back, a deep and talented defensive line evolved into a force and a dynamic wide receiving corps put enormous amounts of pressure on opposing secondaries. Everything that Pinkel had been working for clicked, the SEC East opened up, and Missouri waltzed all the way through to Atlanta.
Great for Missouri and Pinkel, but now comes the big challenge.
Sustaining its perch.
That's easier said than done.
Star defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are gone, as are star running back Henry Josey and quarterback James Franklin.
While losing a star quarterback may seem like a big deal on the surface, four of the last five BCS national title winners have had first-year starters at quarterback, and seven of the last 10 starting quarterbacks in the BCS National Championship Game were first-year starters. The experience Maty Mauk gained last season in place of Franklin coupled with more uncertainty at the quarterback position around the rest of the SEC East should allow for a relatively easy transition for Mauk.
The loss of Sam and Ealy, though, will be incredibly challenging. The ability of the Missouri defensive line to put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks filtered through the defense and was a big reason why the Tigers led the SEC with 20 interceptions.
Missouri transformed itself from an afterthought to a power in 2013, but with several key pieces gone and the SEC East healthy again, Pinkel is now faced with the challenge of winning games and dealing with that expectation of success.
In other words, it's a "rich man's problem."
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
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