Before Gary Pinkel showed up at Missouri in 2001, the Tigers were among the lowliest programs in college football.
The glory years of Orange Bowls and conference championships were well behind “Mizzou,” and Columbia, Mo., had seen just two winning seasons in the previous 17.
Soon after the turn of the millennium, Pinkel had Missouri in the national conversation for the first time in many fans’ lives. He collected five division championships while leading the Tigers to a pair of Cotton Bowl victories and their first No. 1 ranking — at any juncture — in 57 years.
For his efforts, Pinkel was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Currently holding off non-Hodgkins lymphoma and helping the university with fundraising, Pinkel accepted his honor alongside several other state icons such as Jerry Reuss, Gregg Williams and Terin Williams.
“I love Mizzou,” he told KansasCity.com‘s Tod Palmer. “I’m there trying to make it better in any way that I can.”
His final year as Missouri’s coach was fraught with controversy.
An organizational boycott headlined a 5-7 season that also saw starting quarterback Maty Mauk suspended twice. The finish tied Pinkel’s second-worst since arriving in Columbia.
Following his departure, the program promoted defensive coordinator Barry Odom to head coach.
“He’s got a handle on everything,” Pinkel told Palmer. “The thing I’ll assure everybody: He’ll build a football program.”