It was about nine years ago when I realized I was on the "Fire Pinkel" bus. I had watched game after game where mistakes made and strategies used in the first half were seemingly repeated in the second half. "HE DOESN'T MAKE HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS" was a phrase I often used. Then September 9, 2004, happened. What, you don't remember what happened on that Thursday night? I was at Old Chicago, working my way through the Mexican tour and I watched Troy embarrass my Tigers on national television. Suddenly, the bus was VERY crowded.
I think back to that night at Old Chicago and remember thinking that we've just had our latest installment in a line of disappointing head coaching hires, stretching back two decades. Woody Widenhofer's last year, Bob Stull and outside of a couple of special years, Larry Smith. Sure, some people will argue with me about Smith, but take 1997 and 1998 away and he had seasons of 3, 3, 5, 4 and 3 wins. Sure, Pinkel had been in charge for our first win over Nebraska in 24 years and a trip to Shreveport, both the year before. But the embarrassment of losing to a team from the Sun Belt was too much to bear.
It's a good thing fans aren't in charge of football teams because that bus was full of wrong. The next year, Missouri went back to Shreveport and came home with a win and started a school record streak of bowl invites.
Gary Pinkel turned Missouri from laughingstock of the Big 12 into a team nobody laughed at and when the University switched to the football-centric SEC, he led the team to a division title and very nearly an SEC title and a chance for a national championship in the Tigers' second season. And as the year draws to a close, he has cemented his place in Missouri lore as the all-time winningest coach.
102 wins. Do you know what 102 wins looks like? It looks like this:
Okay...there's a lot of names up there, but you expected that, right? Who has he beaten the most?
For comparison, Don Faurot beat Kansas State more than any other (15 times), followed by Colorado (14), Iowa State and Kansas (13 each) and Nebraska (11). Of course, he also beat up on schools we'd never see today, like St. Louis (7 times), Washington (MO) (4) and New York University (3).
One thing Faurot only had to deal with one time was televised games. That was a completely forgettable game, which saw Maryland pound the Tigers 74-13 on ABC in 1954. But these are different times and (as we well know) TV contracts seemingly drive conference affiliations. How has Pinkel done in front of the cameras?
*PPV is PPV, regardless of who produced it
**FOX is the main FOX network (both Cotton Bowls) while FOX Sports refers to the regional sports networks, such as FSN Midwest.
So ... stay away from CBS, right? Those four losses were: Sun Bowl vs. Oregon State in 2006 (38-39), South Carolina (10-31) and Alabama (10-42) in 2012 and the SEC Championship against Auburn (42-59) this past season.
The odd PPV loss was to Nebraska in 2002 (13-24).
Pinkel has coached in 97 games inside our fair state. Not surprisingly, he's won most of them: 68, to be exact. That earns him a .701 winning percentage. Outside of our borders, he's all level with a 34-34 record. How does he do in each state? (Please note: These record reflect where an actual game was played, not the opponent we played)
Finally, when he plays inside the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium, who is showing up? At first, not a lot of people were taking in the game day atmosphere. Here are all the games where the published* attendance was 50,000 or less:
But things have gotten better. Memorial Stadium has been sold out or above capacity 14 times during his tenure:
Yes, that 2003 game against Nebraska was the "above capacity" game. I'm not sure how the University got away with it, but I don't really care, either. You can also see that the capacity has changed a few times. That was the crux of a point I made a couple of weeks ago in a links thread where an article was linked saying how "down" our attendance was in year 2 of the SEC. Was it down? Yes, but only marginally when compared to the change in capacity:
* - I have no clue what attendance is actually published: tickets sold or number of bodies that pass through the turnstiles.
I'm glad I was wrong. I haven't looked back at that "Fire Pinkel" bus since 2005. Gary Pinkel has taken us on one hell of a joy ride. Sure, there have been down times since then, but those have been mostly off the field. When the bus started getting full again last summer, I remained positive. I feel like he's here until he retires. He's built this program in his image and I think he feels there's unfinished business. I think that's what drives him.