When fans enter Memorial Stadium through the north end gates, they pass the statue of Don Faurot, immortalizing the winningest coach in Missouri football history, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961.
With a win against Texas A&M on Saturday, Gary Pinkel will tie Faurot with 101 wins. Earlier this season, Pinkel passed College Football Hall of Fame coach Dan Devine who had 93 wins during his tenure as coach.
“It just shows how old he is,” senior receiver L’Damian Washington said of the approaching milestone for his coach.
Faurot won 101 games in 19 seasons. His time at MU was interrupted when he left to serve in the military for three years during World War II.
Faurot stepped down as head coach in 1956 but continued to serve as athletic director. He hired the legendary Devine as the football coach the same year. While at MU, Faurot helped alleviate a $500,000 debt by scheduling games with top teams such as Ohio State.
Faurot ended his head coaching career with win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Close to the end of the game, the Tigers were down 13-7 but tied it up with a touchdown. On the last play of the game, the defense forced a safety, beating the Jayhawks 15-13, and Faurot was carried off the field.
Similarly, in 13 years, Pinkel has etched himself into the history books of Missouri football. He breathed life back into program, going to more bowl games than any other coach and taking the program to multiple conference championship contests.
Before Missouri, Pinkel was the winningest coach at Toledo, who the Tigers faced on Sept. 7.
With two more wins, Pinkel can cement his legacy at Missouri, but he isn’t thinking about the approaching milestone.
“I never did this to break records,” he said. “I did this because I have a responsibility to the University of Missouri.”
That responsibility, Pinkel said, is to build a football program that is respected across the nation.
Days for before the regular season finale, Pinkel’s Tigers sit 10-1 with their sights set on the Southeastern Conference championship game.
He reached the centennial milestone Nov. 23 against Mississippi, when the Tigers won 24-10. Sophomore center Evan Boehm gave the coach the game ball.
It is not just another season for Pinkel, a coach some analysts said was in the “hot seat” to start the season. Under Pinkel’s leadership, Missouri has rebounded from a 5-7 season to 10-1 with a chance at the SEC East division title. Pinkel was named as semifinalist for National Coach of the Year on Nov. 20 in recognition of his success this season.
Pinkel encourages his players to just focus on the game and ignore all the other distractions, he said. He leads by example, focusing so intently on the game that he has never heard the cannon that goes off when the Tigers rush on to the field.
Pinkel’s intensity is nothing new. He said that when he first started coaching, he was ready to play on Tuesday. He said he does not sleep well during the season.
Before kickoff, Pinkel won’t be relaxing until he heads to the stadium. Before games, Pinkel said he is ready to stab himself.
“That’s just my intensity,” Pinkel said. “That’s who I am.”
Pinkel can release that intensity on Saturday when his Tigers look to redeem a 59-29 loss to Texas A&M in a regular season finale with many implications. Kickoff is at 6:45 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN.