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Published: Thursday, 11/30/2000

Pinkel set to coach Missouri

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Gary Pinkel era is over.

The University of Toledo football coach will be named Missouri's 31st coach today at a 3 p.m. news conference in Columbia, Mo., according to two Missouri athletic department officials.

Mr. Pinkel, 48, will succeed Larry Smith, who was fired as the Tigers' coach on Nov. 18.

Asked last night if he had heard about Mr. Pinkel's impending departure, UT athletic director Pete Liske said: “No. I haven't heard anything.”

Mr. Pinkel, who interviewed with Missouri athletic director Mike Alden Tuesday in Columbia, is one of the highest-paid coaches in the Mid-American Conference, with an earning potential up to $210,000, including base salary and incentives.

But The Blade learned last night that Mr. Pinkel's package at Missouri will be more than four times that. He will get a five-year deal worth nearly $900,000 per season. Mr. Pinkel will be paid about $600,000 in base salary and $300,000 in incentives.

Mr. Smith, a Bowling Green State University alumnus who had three years left on his contract when he was fired, received a buyout of $640,000, meaning that it will cost Missouri between $1.2 million and $1.5 million to switch coaches.

Mr. Pinkel is the winningest coach in UT history with a 73-37-3 record in 10 seasons, and he guided the team to a stunning victory over Penn State this season.

Gary Pinkel

Full name: Gary R.

Pinkel

Date of birth: April

27, 1952

Hometown: Akron
College: Kent State

University (class of 1975)

Family: Wife, Vicki;

daugher Erin (23), sons, Geoff (21) and Blake (17)

Record at Toledo: 73-37-3
Playing career: Tight

end at Kent State 1971-73

Previous coaching experience:
1984-90: University

of Washington (offensive coordinator)

1979-1983: University

of Washington (receiver coach)

1977-78: Bowling Green

State University (receiver coach)

1976: University of

Washington (tight end coach)

1975: Kent (graduate

assistant)

His Rockets are 10-1 and ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, but may not get a bowl berth when bids officially are extended Sunday.

Missouri officials want Mr. Pinkel to hit the ground running, so in all likelihood, he wouldn't coach the Rockets in a bowl game if they land a bid.

That duty likely would be handled by Mr. Pinkel's top assistant, Tom Amstutz, who will be a candidate for the Rockets' head coaching vacancy.

The Blade also learned that Mr. Pinkel, will offer most of his coaching staff a chance to join him at Missouri.

Mr. Pinkel was not in his office yesterday and did not return a phone call last night. Mr. Pinkel's agent, John Caponigro, did not return a phone call.

Mr. Amstutz, a 45-year-old Toledo native and UT grad who played football for the Rockets, could not be reached either. He has been a Toledo assistant for 21 of the past 24 seasons.

Andy McCollum, a UT alumnus who played for Mr. Pinkel in the early 1990s and is the starting center for the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams, said last night that Mr. Pinkel and Missouri will be a good fit. “I think it's a heck of a deal for Missouri to get him as coach,” Mr. McCollum said.

University of Texas-El Paso athletic director Bob Stull, fired as Missouri's coach at the end of the 1993 season, had been one of Mr. Pinkel's biggest boosters for the Tigers' vacancy.

Mr. Stull coached Mr. Pinkel at Kent State when Mr. Pinkel was a player there. He later was an assistant on the same staff with Mr. Pinkel under Don James at Washington.

“He'll be a perfect fit at Missouri,” Mr. Stull said. “Gary has all the training from Don. He is very detailed and very disciplined. He is on the cutting edge of offense.”

Mr. Alden opted for Mr. Pinkel over fellow Mid-American Conference coach Gary Darnell from Western Michigan. Mr. Darnell, a candidate for openings at North Carolina, Oklahoma State, and Rutgers, had interviewed with Mr. Alden for the second time yesterday morning in Columbia.

Mr. Stull told Mr. Pinkel last weekend that Missouri's commitment to improving the school's facilities will allow the Tigers to be competitive in the Big 12 Conference. “I told Gary it was the perfect time to be at Missouri,” Mr. Stull said.

Mr. Pinkel listened.

Mr. Pinkel has been part of 20 winning seasons in the past 21 years, either as a head coach or assistant coach.

Mr. Pinkel's Rocket teams played in the postseason three times in the past five years, capturing one MAC Championship and two MAC West Division titles.

He led UT to an undefeated season (11-0-1) in 1995 and was named MAC coach of the year after the Rockets beat Nevada-Reno in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Before coming to Toledo, Mr. Pinkel was an assistant coach at Washington for 12 seasons. He was offensive coordinator for seven years and receivers coach for five. He also was an assistant for two years at his alma mater and for two years at Bowling Green.

Mr. Pinkel was one of three finalists for the Washington job two years ago that went to Colorado's Rick Neuheisel.

Gary Pinkel won't be able to forget about the Mid-American Conference right away.

The Missouri Tigers' home opener next fall is against Bowling Green State University.

Missouri is then scheduled to play at Bowling Green in 2002.



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