Updated: Gary Pinkel announces retirement due to health reasons

He will coach through the rest of the season or until a new coach is found.
Head coach Gary Pinkel speaks at a news conference Feb. 14, 2014 at Mizzou Arena. Maneater File Photo

Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel announced Friday that he will resign his position after the conclusion of the 2015-16 football season.

Pinkel, 63, was diagnosed in May with lymphoma, a non-Hodgskin lymphoma cancer of the blood. Since the diagnosis, he’s received multiple treatments that have not interfered with his coaching on the football field.

Still, he said it’s time he turn his focus to "life outside of the daily grind of football.”

"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 news release. "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 we played Vanderbilt (Oct. 24), I had a scheduled PET scan on Oct. 26 for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on Oct. 27 that this would be my last year coaching.”

Following two consecutive SEC-East championships, Missouri (4-5) has struggled amid quarterback complications and a troubled offense. With the way the week leading up to Pinkel’s announcement has gone — which featured a team-led boycott in support of Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike — this comes to the surprise of many. Pinkel’s the third key figure at MU to step down this week.

"Coach Pinkel has worked tirelessly to elevate the prominence of the MU football program and in the process was an extraordinary role model to the student athletes he coached and to those around him," said Mike Middleton, interim president of the University of Missouri system. "We commend him on his years of service and for the winning football program he built that elevated the university with national recognition. His commitment to his players and the University of Missouri will be recalled for generations to come. Just as he has always supported his players, the University of Missouri community stands by him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Pinkel and his family."

Since taking over at Mizzou in 2000, Pinkel has totaled 117 wins and has become the school’s all-time winningest football coach. His 190 career wins stand 19th all-time in NCAA FBS history, and he’s also helped 32 players into the NFL draft in his tenure.

Pinkel’s Tigers posted winning seasons in 10 out of 15 years, after a stretch in which Mizzou recorded only two winning seasons from 1984-2000. In 2007, he was named Big 12 coach of the year and in 2014 he earned the same honor in the Southeastern Conference.

It was the 2013 campaign, though, that many Tigers fans will remember. Pinkel was on the hot seat following the 2012 season as Mizzou’s attempt to assimilate into the SEC football culture struggled.

“Gary Pinkel has been a credit to the game of football and the kind of person we hold high as an example of how college athletics can make a difference in young people’s lives," said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. "He is a leader who coaches character with the same intensity he coaches football. Gary was an instrumental figure in transitioning Missouri into the Southeastern Conference and I thank him for his work, his dedication to student-athletes and his service to the SEC.”

Pinkel told the team Friday evening, the day before the team travels to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium to face the BYU Cougars. He’ll remain coach until Dec. 31 or until a new head coach is in place.

"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,” Pinkel said. “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.”

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