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Missouri Tigers Football: Gary Pinkel to Retire at Season's End

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A battle with lymphoma is cutting his career short.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Like a bolt out of the blue, Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel announced on Friday that the 2015 season will be his last on the sidelines:

University of Missouri Head Football Coach Gary Pinkel will resign his position following the conclusion of the 2015 season, and he will remain as Mizzou's coach through December 31, 2015, or until a new head coach is in place, as announced today by MU Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades.  Pinkel informed his staff and team this evening, and will address questions following Saturday's game against BYU at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. ...

Pinkel's decision is health-based, as he was diagnosed in May of 2015 with lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer of the blood.  He received multiple treatments in May and June, and after doctors indicated that the treatments wouldn't interfere with his coaching duties, he decided that he would continue to coach the Tigers in 2015.

"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.  "I felt great going into the season, but also knew that I would need to re-assess 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. 26th for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on October 27th that this would be my last year coaching.  I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that," he said.

Pinkel has been a rock of stability for Mizzou, having coached there since 2001. He is tied with Mark Richt at Georgia for fifth-longest coaching tenure in FBS behind only Frank Beamer (1987), Bob Stoops (1999), Kirk Ferentz (1999), and Gary Patterson (2000). Long spans in one place are the norm for Pinkel, as he served as head coach at Toledo for the ten years before he went to Missouri and was an assistant at Washington from 1979-1990 before that.

Pinkel is 117-71 at present at MU, which makes him the winningest coach in program history ahead of Don Faurot (101 wins) and Dan Devine (92 wins). The program had won ten games in a season just once before his arrival, in Devine's 11-0 1960 campaign, but Pinkel has hit that mark five times. All came since 2007, and all came with won or shared division titles. His Tigers played in the Big 12 Championship Game and SEC Championship Game twice each.

Pinkel's off field leadership has been on full display over the past five years. He led the team in a transition from the Big 12 to SEC, winning a pair of East division titles despite general expectations being lower than that. He played a key role in supporting Michael Sam, who came out as gay to his teammates prior to the 2013 season and to the world after it. That 2013 team went 12-2 and is in the running with his 2007 team as the best he yet coached. Then this week, he joined his players in a boycott in protest against racism on campus and what the players and some campus activists believed to be absentee leadership from now-former university president Tim Wolfe.

Looking ahead, Mizzou is reportedly interested in the three mid-major head coaches that everyone else will be interested in too:

I think I can speak for everyone at TSK in wishing Pinkel the best as he fights this disease and hoping that his retirement is a long and happy one.