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Mizzou's Greatest, #9: Dan Devine

We're finally in a place where we can finish the Greatest countdown. But first, as a lead-in, let's #evergreen the top 10 again. Next up: the self-proclaimed fussbudget.

The Savitar

The first two times Don Faurot called Dan Devine to try to get him to visit Columbia and think about taking the Missouri head coaching job, Devine said thanks, but no thanks. At just 33 years old, Devine had compiled a ridiculous 27-3-1 record in three seasons at Arizona State. He had turned down a decent Houston program and had, according to Bob Broeg, passed up a look from Texas A&M (I'm not sure when that happened, as Bear Bryant was still the coach there), and while Arizona State was still the minor leagues at the time--an undefeated 1957 season had only earned them a #12 ranking--he could probably continue to hold out for a better job.

But Faurot called a third time, and mostly out of admiration for the respected former coach, Devine agreed to come for a visit. His trip to mid-Missouri was...well, not a great first impression. The flight attendant spilled hot chocolate on him, engine troubles caused a six-hour delay in getting to KC, and when he finally got there, the welcoming party of alumni that had been waiting at the airport (and eventually the airport bar) for much longer than expected was, well, a little more tipsy than planned, and the introductions were brief to say the least. And then, as Faurot drove Devine back to Columbia in the middle of the night, his car ran out of gas.

So Faurot marched back to the closest town to get gas while Devine, in a coat not nearly thick enough for Missouri Decembers (likely wondering what the hell he was doing), waited in the car. Faurot came back with a trucker who, calling Faurot by name--I'm doubting the old coach had to introduce himself--got them the help they needed, and they arrived in Como around 3am or 4am. A couple hours later, it was off to Rolla for a board of curators meeting. Now, the road from Jeff City to Rolla is still a little dicey today, so I can't imagine what it was like then. But apparently Faurot was a little bit of a leadfoot and fast-talker, and they careened all over the foggy roads to Rolla. Again, Devine had to be second- or third-guessing his decision to check things out.

But somehow Faurot and university president Dr. Elmer Ellis sold him on the job. They negotiated with themselves during the interview, upping their offer to 25% over Devine's current salary (ahem, from $12K to $15K); plus, Faurot said that if things worked out, he would advocate for Devine becoming athletic director when he retired at 65. Also, just as importantly, Devine got assurance from all involved that there was no limitation when it came to recruiting. Faurot was embarrassed when Frank Broyles basically said Missouri only wanted to win with MO players, and that they were "living on a cloud" thinking they could succeed like that. Everybody involved told Devine he could recruit who he wanted to recruit.

All of this, combined with the fact that Arizona State was basically Boise State at the time--Devine had made them into a stout program, but they were still only part of the Border Conference (with West Texas A&M, Hardin-Simmons, New Mexico State, UTEP, and Arizona) at the time--won Devine over. He could win big in the Big 8, and the loyal streak in him was intrigued by the long-term possibilities of the Missouri job. So against all odds, Faurot got his man.

-- 1958: The Fussbudget Arrives (Part One)

Faurot got his man, and his man lived up to his billing. The self-proclaimed fussbudget coached for 14 seasons in Columbia before moving on to replace Vince Lombardi at Green Bay; he survived 1958 with a thin squad, then took flight. In the end, Mizzou finished in the AP top 10 four times, dominated on defense, hauled in classic talent on both sides of the ball, won two conference titles, went to three Orange Bowls and seven bowls in all, and finished with a winning record 13 times. His 1960, 1962, 1965, and 1969 teams were easily among Mizzou's top 10 squads ever, and his 1961 and 1968 teams might have been, too. He coached Roger Wehrli and Danny LaRose and Francis Peay, Johnny Roland and Mel West and Mel Gray.

While Gary Pinkel is trying his damnedest to produce the best decade in Missouri history, Devine's 1960-69 span still holds that title. Devine lived up to his name, thriving in Don Faurot's shadow, then growing beyond it. We'll see where Gary Pinkel ends up on this list when his career is over; for now, Devine is the greatest Missouri head coach.