Gary Pinkel is about to enter his 15th season as Missouri’s head coach. That’s a long time in any job, and especially long as a head football coach at a Power Five institution. Long enough for Pinkel to pass a pair of College Football Hall of Fame coaches in Don Faurot and Dan Devine as Mizzou’s all-time winningest coach. It’s three coaching lifetimes, really.
But there was a Gary Pinkel before he arrived in Columbia. And, kids, he was pretty darn successful.
From 1991-2000, Pinkel guided Toledo to a 73-37-3 mark. He guided the Rockets to an 11-0-1 mark in 1994, claiming a MAC championship and a top 25 final ranking. Pinkel’s teams also won the MAC West Division in 1997 and 1998, losing to those great Marshall teams in the title game each time, and won a share of the division crown in 2000 before leaving for Mizzou before the 2001 season.
Pinkel won enough to become Toledo’s all-time winningest coach, joining him with Steve Spurrier as the only active coaches to hold the all-time wins mark at two separate schools.
And on Wednesday, Pinkel was inducted into the conference’s hall of fame.
“When I got the call that this happened I had tears in my eyes, that I could be honored like this,” Pinkel told Cleveland.com. “I am very, very appreciative of this award. This (getting to the dinner) was really important to me.”
In addition to his coaching exploits, Pinkel was also honored for his accomplishments as a player. Playing with teammate Nick Saban and for College Football Hall of Fame head coach Don James at Kent State, he earned All-MAC and honorable mention All-America honors as a tight end.
Wednesday night’s honor gave Pinkel the distinction of residing in the Kent State, Toledo and MAC halls of fame.
In perhaps the most interesting anecdote of the story, Pinkel nearly missed the ceremony after his Cleveland-bound plane could not make it out of Destin, Fla., but Kentucky head coaches Mark Stoops and John Calipari, also making their way north from the SEC’s spring meetings, let him bum a ride, even pleading with their pilot to drop Pinkel off in Cleveland before heading to Lexington. “It’s a miracle,” he said. “I really wanted to be here.”