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Former Mizzou football coach Pinkel reflects on career, cancer, campus protests, more

Former University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio
Former University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh
Credit (courtesy of the publisher)

The year 2015 was a busy and challenging one for former University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel.

In April, the winningest football coach in school history was awarded a contract extension that would have kept him with the university through 2021 with a salary in excess of $4 million per year.

In mid-November of that year, however, Pinkel announced his resignation. He had been diagnosed a few months before with non-Hodgkin, B-cell lymphoma, a slow-growing but very treatable blood cancer.

The resignation announcement also came during a time of tumult, when campus protests against racism and a threatened boycott by the football team led to the resignation of the University of Missouri System president and the Columbia campus’ chancellor.

The events in 2015 and much more are detailed in Pinkel’s new memoir, “The 100-Yard Journey: A Life in Coaching and Battling for the Win.”

Along with co-author Dave Matter, the university’s athletics beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Pinkel details his successes and takes an honest look at the challenges and controversies.

“My lymphoma is in remission right now,” Pinkel told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “I’m doing pretty good, prayerfully, and all of those out there battling cancer, God bless you all as you keep fighting.”

Pinkel is keeping busy these days. In addition to authoring the new book, he maintains a public relations role with the University of Missouri and speaks to businesses about leadership. Although he acknowledged he still gets a bit intense when he wakes up on college game days, he takes a nuanced view when speaking about how football has influenced his life.

“At the end of the day, [football] has not defined me as who I am,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Pinkel discussed:

  • His time as a student and then coach at Kent State University during the 1970s
  • His coaching tenure at Toledo State University and the University of Missouri
  • Recent protests by players who take a knee at NFL games during the National Anthem
  • Anti-racism protests at the University of Missouri in 2015 and a threatened boycott by his team
  • Concussions in football
  • Defensive End Michael Sam privately and publicly coming out as gay in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
  • His family, including his sister, who he considers his hero
  • Communicating with players and the recruitment process


Related Event

What: Gary Pinkel discusses new book: The 100-Yard Journey: A Life in Coaching and Battling for the Win
When: Monday, November 13, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, St. Louis, MO 63108
More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.