Bernie Miklasz: Gary Pinkel's monumental success story at Missouri

Get the Pinkel statue ready, and find a prominent, visible spot for it outside Faurot Field.
Dec 7, 2013


No matter what goes down in Saturday's SEC championship game, this is the season that clinched a statue for Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel.

Get the work commissioned, Mike Alden.

Get the Pinkel statue ready, and find a prominent, visible spot for it outside Faurot Field.

The coach deserves it, and don't forget to put the visor on it.

Not that Pinkel failed to warrant such an honor until now. But in my book, this is Missouri's best season under Pinkel's leadership, and the success of this extraordinary 2013 campaign has certified and validated everything Pinkel has meant to the program.

This doesn't mean Coach Pinkel can now coast without scrutiny. Heck, no. Life in the SEC doesn't permit breathers.

In this ultra-competitive and unforgiving conference, weaknesses are quickly exploited and ravaged. SEC coaches can win a national championship, then get fired two seasons later.

Just ask former Auburn coach Gene Chizik. He led his 2010 Auburn team to the BCS Championship, and his stay on top of the mountain expired about 18 minutes later.

Our babbling about a statue doesn't mean Pinkel didn't deserve the criticism and pressure that came down on him following last season's troubling 5-7 finish in the first run through the SEC obstacle course.

Nope. When any coach enters the SEC, he relinquishes his free pass. Alabama fans have spent the week beating up on coach Nick Saban for blowing the Auburn game. And we're talking about a leader that's delivered three BCS championships in Tuscaloosa.

These jobs pay well, but they're never easy. Pinkel has experienced the extreme nature of the profession over the last 12 months, going from being a coach in trouble to emerging as a finalist for national coach of the year.

And as long as Pinkel stays at Mizzou, the expectations will crowd him. That's why Pinkel and staff must take advantage of this breakthrough year to enhance Mizzou's recruiting, fan support, and financial backing from donors. MU has to seize this opportunity, keep the momentum going, and avoid spiraling.

But by rebounding in such grand style in 2013, Pinkel has reaffirmed his esteemed place in Mizzou football history.

Steaming into the SEC Championship showdown with Auburn, Pinkel's team is 11-1, has captured the SEC East title, and is ranked fifth in the BCS.

And if Mizzou hits the exacta ticket on Saturday _ beating Auburn, combined with a loss by Ohio State or Florida State _ then his Tigers likely catapult into the BCS championship game.

This is simply amazing. Sure, a hideous loss Saturday would diminish the luster of Mizzou's ascension to this special place. But even in a worst-case scenario _ a blowout defeat _ Missouri's season would qualify as an unassailable success.

I believe this is Pinkel's best team at Mizzou for two reasons: (1) these Tigers pack a loaded, disruptive defense to go with the usual prolific offense; and (2) a 7-1 record in the nation's top-dog conference is more impressive than any Big 12 accomplishment by an MU squad.

Yes, Mizzou's one-week stay atop the national polls in late 2007 was very special. But the success of 2013 carries more magnitude.

In eight SEC games, the Tigers averaged 35 points and gave up an average of 18.6 points, which ranked second to Alabama.

Given the harsh SEC terrain, MU's strength on both sides of the ball is profound. Mizzou already has four wins against Top 25 teams, which matches the four posted by the 2007 Tigers. But the '07 Tigers had Chase Daniel at quarterback all the way. This season, Mizzou had to start Maty Mauk, a redshirt freshman backup, at quarterback in four consecutive SEC contests in place of injured senior starter James Franklin.

It's been a hell of a year, and Mizzou still is in position to add more conquests to the list.

That said, there is a tradition of success under Pinkel.

We have short memories in the sports world, but it's important to recall the sorry state of Mizzou football before Pinkel's arrival in 2001.

In the 17 seasons from 1984 through 2000, Mizzou had two winning records, played in two bowls and won only 33 percent of its 190 games.

In 13 seasons under Pinkel, the Tigers have a winning percentage of .620, have notched nine winning seasons and will be appearing in a ninth bowl game.

Over the last eight seasons Mizzou has a winning percentage of .692 and ranks 18th nationally with 72 victories.

Beginning with the 2002 NFL draft, Pinkel has had 21 players selected, including five first-round choices since 2009.

Let's face it, Mizzou wouldn't even be in the SEC without Pinkel's tremendous job of building a worthy program.

Heck, I could have just left it at this: Pinkel is tied with the legendary Don Faurot for the most career wins (101) by a Mizzou football coach.

Faurot has the playing field named for him at Mizzou.

Pinkel at least warrants a statue.

After all, this has been a statuesque season for Ol' Mizzou.


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