When it comes to coaches, the name of the college football game today is M-O-N-E-Y. Fans of the game can wish it weren't so, but it is. Those who win are valuable commodities and can command huge salaries, which is why we can't begrudge Gary Pinkel for leaving the University of Toledo for the head coach's job at the University of Missouri.
Already one of the highest paid coaches in the Mid-American Conference, Pinkel is about to become one of the highest paid coaches anywhere. Certainly by the standards of today's marketplace, he has earned it.
In addition to being the winningest football coach in UT history, Pinkel has been head coach or assistant coach on winning college teams for 20 of the past 21 seasons. That's a remarkable record of consistent success.
Having led UT to a 10-1 season and a possible bowl-game appearance this year, Pinkel will be handsomely compensated at Missouri with a pay-package deal worth a reported $900,000, more than four times what he was making at UT.
In compiling a 73-37-3 record over 10 seasons at UT, his teams took one Mid-American Conference championship and two division titles, and played in post-season games in three of the past five years. In view of the turmoil that has wracked the university's academic and administrative community during that time, a strong argument can be made that Rocket gridiron victories gave weary UT partisans a badly needed morale boost.
In traditional fashion, Pinkel, who played the college game at Kent State University, worked his way up the coaching ranks, first at Kent, then at the University of Washington, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Washington again, before landing in the top job at UT a decade ago.
His 1995 team was undefeated at 11-0-1, the Rockets beat Nevada-Reno in the Las Vegas Bowl, and Pinkel was accorded MAC coach of the year honors. His valedictory, of course, is this season's convincing 24-6 win over Penn State, long a national power. For fans of sometimes-denigrated MAC football, it doesn't get any better.
It is unfortunate that Pinkel could not have delayed this career change until after the possible bowl game, but there are no guarantees in his business, either of a bowl appearance or the door remaining open at Missouri.
UT officials now face the difficult task of selecting a successor who's at just the right point in an upward career curve. That means a coach who won't bug out after a single season, as Nick Saban did, but one who will stick around and continue the winning tradition the Rockets built under Gary Pinkel.