Missouri coach Gary Pinkel to resign after season due to health issues

Dr. Saturday
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel will resign following the conclusion of the 2015 season, the school announced Friday.

According to a release from the school, the decision is due to health issues. Pinkel was diagnosed with lymphoma in May. The school said he received “multiple treatments” in May and June after doctors determined that treatment “wouldn’t interfere with his coaching duties.” Once that determination was made, Pinkel decided to coach the 2015 season.

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“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 in a statement. “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.”

The school said Pinkel will “remain as Mizzou’s coach through December 31, 2015, or until a new head coach is in place.” Additionally, Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades are “discussing a role” to keep Pinkel involved with the athletic department.

Pinkel informed the team and staff of the decision on Friday.

“It’s been an honor working with Gary since I joined the Mizzou family,” said Rhoades. “Gary is truly a coaching legend as the winningest coach at two Division I institutions while leaving a profound impact on a countless number of young men. We are extremely appreciative of all that he has done for Mizzou. It’s tough emotionally knowing that his fight with cancer is bringing his run to an end sooner than any of us thought. 

"I want to commend Gary with how open he’s been with me the whole time, from the first day he came to my office in May and told me about his diagnosis, all the way to now and when he met with me personally on October 28th to tell me he’d made up his mind. He’s been nothing but first class in how he’s handled the situation the whole way.”

Pinkel clarified in his statement that he is “not doing poorly” health-wise and that the type of lymphoma he has is “manageable.”

“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. “So many people have bigger struggles with other forms of cancer and other serious diseases, and I feel blessed that I’ve got something I can fight and still enjoy a good quality of life.  I don’t know how many years I have left, but I want to turn my focus to life outside of the daily grind of football.

“Words can’t express how grateful I am to the University of Missouri and all of the amazing people who make it up, from the administration to the students and our fans. Obviously, I’m so appreciative to all of my coaches and athletes. Leaving them makes this decision so tough, but I do so feeling good that the Mizzou Football program is in a better place than it was when we came in 15 years ago. I feel that Mizzou is a great job at a great school and has so much going for it that they’ll find an outstanding coach to move the program forward.”

Pinkel is in his 15th season at Mizzou after previously spending 10 years at Toledo and compiling a 73-37-3 record. At Missouri, Pinkel has a 117-71 record and has guided the Tigers to five division titles, 10 bowl game appearances and five Top 20 rankings. He also guided Missouri through its transition from the Big 12 to the SEC and won back-to-back SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014.

With 190 total wins, Pinkel is the 19th-winningest coach in FBS history.

This year’s team started 4-1 but is now 4-5 after dropping its last four contests in conference play. The Tigers play BYU on Saturday in Kansas City before finishing out the season at home against Tennessee on Nov. 21 and at Arkansas on Nov. 27.

Pinkel offered support for his players earlier this week when they decided to boycott football activities until graduate student Jonathan Butler, who was on a hunger strike until UM System President Tim Wolfe stepped down, resumed eating. The boycott and protests were in response to series of racist incidents on campus in recent months. 

Wolfe resigned on Monday and Missouri returned to practice on Tuesday. 

For more Missouri news, visit PowerMizzou.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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