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Columbia Missourian

Gary Pinkel looking forward to next Missouri football season

By Richard Fernandez
November 27, 2012 | 3:25 p.m. CST
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel answers questions from reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning at the Missouri Athletic Training Center. The meeting focused on the state of Missouri's program.

COLUMBIA — Gary Pinkel stepped in front of reporters Tuesday morning wearing a black suit with a white shirt and a red tie.

"If you think I dressed up for you," Pinkel joked towards reporters,  "I didn't."

He was dressed to attend a funeral later in the day, but the Missouri football coach was upbeat as he spoke about the state of the program after his team's 5-7 season ended Saturday.

It seemed he had already moved on from the Tigers' worst season since 2004. It ended so badly that there were rumors over the weekend that Pinkel would resign.

But he is still here.

"My daughter called me, said, 'I heard you're retiring,'" Pinkel said.

"'I am?'" he asked. Pinkel laughed it off.

"I love what I do. I couldn't wait to get into work on Monday morning."

Instead of preparing for a bowl game, Pinkel will be able to spend more time than usual focusing on recruiting.

Pinkel and the team have faced harsh criticism from fans and members of the media all season as things trended downward for Missouri.

On Saturday, CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb tweeted, "I have no disdain for Missouri, all their coaches were against the move, Pinkell [sic] especially — they can not compete in the SEC — period."

On Tuesday, Pinkel spoke about his first season in the Southeastern Conference. It did not go well, but he said he definitely thinks his team can compete.

"Nothing that happened in this league was different than I expected," Pinkel said.

He also praised the Missouri fans and MU for their strong support throughout the transition into a new conference.

"I feel fine that the fans are upset that we're not going to a bowl, and that we didn't have a winning season," Pinkel said. "I like that. I like the attitude. I think it's good. That's the way it should be."

Pinkel mentioned that this week the team would submit names of NFL draft-eligible players to be evaluated. Among them will be Sheldon Richardson, who has one year of eligibility left.

"If I was a betting man, I'd say he's gonna go," Pinkel said.

Pinkel said he recommends that players leave if they are projected to go in the first round of the NFL draft.

Pinkel also said six players would need surgery in the off-season. The athletics department will release the names of the players after their families have been contacted and decisions are finalized.