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DWI brings Gary Pinkel to the crossroads at Mizzou (Updated)

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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At 5-5, it hasn't exactly been a banner year for Missouri on the field. Wednesday night, it just got a lot worse:

COLUMBIA (AP) — Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was arrested by Boone County Sheriff's Department officers Wednesday night on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Pinkel was pulled over at 10:15 p.m. on Keene Street just north of Broadway, according to the incident report. He was stopped for lane and signal violations, Chief Deputy Major Tom Reddin said.
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"I'm not going to comment any further on any statements made by Mr. Pinkel," Reddin said. "The reports are still being completed. They'll be forwarded to the prosecuting attorney's office for consideration as to the filing of formal charges."

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Pinkel, 59, was alone in the car — thank goodness for that — but there was no indication from Reddin where he was coming from or where he was going. According to the incident report, he was pulled over near the medical facility where tailback Henry Josey is being treated for multiple ligament tears that prematurely ended his season in Saturday's 17-5 win over Texas. He was booked and released this morning on $500 bond. Missouri is in "fact-finding mode," according to a university spokeswoman, and plans to issue a statement later today.

(Update, 12:21 p.m. ET. In a statement, Pinkel said he was pulled over after dinner with friends and took responsibility for "my lack of judgment in this instance." A press conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT, where the university is expected to announce Pinkel will be suspended for at least one game.)

This is Pinkel's first encounter with the law, though it's not the first for a Missouri coach after a night out: A longtime Pinkel assistant, co-offensive line coach Bruce Walker, was arrested for drunk driving last year outside the Tigers' football facility, where campus police reportedly found him sitting behind the wheel of a parked car with its motor running after a bus trip to a nearby lake with the rest of the coaching staff and their wives. (Walker remains on the staff.) In October 1987, then-head coach Woody Widenhofer was arrested (and later convicted) of drunk driving following a homecoming win over Kansas State; he survived the rest of that season and one more.

In November 2011, Pinkel may not be so fortunate — he is, after all, charged with providing maturity and guidance 18-to-22-year-olds, who regularly come in for discipline themselves after scrapes with the police.{YSP:MORE} That was the rationale when Georgia athletic director Damon Evans got the boot after being cited for drunk driving last year. (Though it didn't help in that case that Evans had a 28-year-old woman in the passenger seat, and her underwear in his seat.) The last major college coach charged with drunk driving, Ohio's Frank Solich, managed to keep his job in 2005 despite an eventual conviction and the failure of an appeal on the grounds that he had been drugged with the "date rape" drug, GHB. The Bobcats won their first MAC East title that fall, and just wrapped up their third on Solich's watch on Wednesday night.

Details of Pinkel's arrest have yet to emerge, sordid or otherwise, but the Tigers are nowhere near a championship in the Big 12 or in the SEC, where they'll begin play next year. They are on track for their seventh consecutive bowl game, easily the best streak in school history. If it comes down to his job, though, it's not going to compel anyone to leap to Pinkel's defense without tapping every last drop of goodwill he's accumulated over the last eleven years.

(Update, 5:25 p.m. ET. As expected, the university has suspended Pinkel for Saturday's game against Texas Tech and frozen his salary for the coming year, likely costing him in the neighborhood of $300,000 in bonuses and incentives.)

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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