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Columbia Missourian

Missouri football's Pinkel about to eclipse Missouri legend

By Alexander Smith
September 25, 2013 | 1:09 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Dan Devine’s name won’t be forgotten anytime soon at the University of Missouri.

The former head coach of the Green Bay Packers and Notre Dame spent 13 seasons in Columbia coaching the Tigers from 1958 to 1970. His name adorns the indoor practice facility next to the athletics complex, and his memory is also enshrined in black letters on one of Memorial Stadium's brick walls.

Dan Devine facts

  • Devine's career winning percentage at Missouri (.704) is by far the best of the seven coaches who lasted at least 50 games in Columbia. Pinkel is second (.604).
  • During the 1960s, Missouri was the nation's only college football program to never lose more than three games in a season.
  • Devine hired legendary basketball coach Norm Stewart during his brief tenure as Missouri's athletics director in the late '60s. 
  • Devine's Notre Dame team won the national championship in 1977. His quarterback? NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana.
  • Devine was depicted in the movie "Rudy" as an antagonizing coach who reneges on preceding coach Ara Parseghian's promise that protagonist Rudy Ruettiger could suit up for a game in 1974. Many have challenged the depiction of Devine's character.
  • Devine left Missouri for Green Bay in 1971 to become the team's second coach after the legendary Vince Lombardi. He won NFL Coach of the Year in 1972 but left after the 1974 season with a career losing record.
  • Devine was inducted into the State of Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1973, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.

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But this coming weekend, a coaching eclipse is likely to occur. On Saturday, current coach Gary Pinkel — now in his 14th season with the Tigers — tied Devine’s career mark of 93 wins. The two are currently in second place in the Missouri record book and trail only Don Faurot himself (101).

Pinkel tipped his hat to Devine during Monday’s media day.

“First of all, I have tremendous respect for Dan Devine,” Pinkel said. “I had the chance after I got the job (in 2000) to talk to him on the phone for a little while. That meant a lot to me.”

But the homage did not last long.

“With that being said, I just want to continue to become a better team and focus on Arkansas State,” Pinkel said. “This is what I am, and this is what I have done.”

The Tigers are 3-0 this season, and Saturday's game against the Red Wolves is certainly winnable. Las Vegas favors Missouri by as many as three touchdowns.

Pinkel’s players are aware that their coach’s next win will be significant. Ninety-four victories will put him in second place by himself, sandwiched between legendary figures who are both in the College Football Hall of Fame.

“I think it’s important to him,” said Tigers quarterback James Franklin. “He’s going to be really appreciative of it, but it’s not his lifetime goal or dream, at least not that I can get from it.”

Defensive lineman Kony Ealy took a similar approach to his coach.

“We don’t forget about tradition,” Ealy said. “We want to keep up tradition here, but at the same time, we can’t think about records. We just got to go out there and play. We’ve got to dominate to the best of our ability for 60 minutes.”

Of Pinkel’s 14 Missouri squads, seven have been undefeated through three games. The last time the Tigers have been in this position was 2010, when the team started 7-0 and reached a No. 7 national ranking on the way to a 10-win season.

While the 2013 team is on the brink of helping Pinkel to history, they know the real goal is to stay focused after potential win No. 94.

“He’s really excited about just winning games, having good football teams, and that’s something we want to continue to do,” Franklin said. “I know if he gets that he’s going to be real thankful. It’s going to mean a lot to him.”

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.