Missouri's game against BYU on Saturday was Gary Pinkel's 189th in 15 seasons as coach of the Tigers. It is safe to say none has ever been played after a more tumultuous and trying week.
Pinkel abruptly announced Friday that he has cancer and will resign at the end of this season, ending a tenure in which he revived a program that had largely languished for more than a decade. The 63-year-old Pinkel said he was diagnosed with lymphoma in May and decided about two weeks ago that this season would be his last.
It was a stunning turn during a most unusual week in Columbia, Mo., that started with Pinkel's players on strike because of racial tensions on campus. Pinkel stood by his players and kept his team unified through a couple of difficult days, but his decision to step down had nothing to do with the team's boycott.
"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," Pinkel said in a statement issued on the eve of Saturday's game.
"I want to make very clear that I'm not doing poorly, and that this is a manageable disease, but it's one that will never go away," Pinkel said. "I don't know how many years I have left, but I want to turn my focus to life outside the daily grind of football."
Pinkel, a native of Akron, Ohio, is the winningest coach in school history with a 117-71 record over 15 seasons. After winning two straight SEC East titles, Missouri is out of contention this season. The Tigers (4-5) have two more games after BYU to get to the six wins required to be bowl eligible.
The Tigers have had five 10-win seasons under Pinkel and won a division title in five of the last eight seasons. Missouri's last 10-win season before Pinkel was in 1960.
"With Gary stepping down at the end of the season, we are losing one of the great leaders in our profession at developing and preparing student-athletes for both football and life," said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was a teammate of Pinkel's at Kent State.