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Published: Thursday, 11/30/2000

Gary Pinkel was ready for next challenge

Gary Pinkel's gone. University of Toledo football supporters should start experiencing withdrawl pains following Pinkel's news conference later today.

From the 11-0-1 record in 1995 to the big win over Penn State this season, Pinkel will be remembered fondly for all the wonderful things he has meant to the Rockets. Pinkel was precisely what the program needed when Nick Saban bolted after just one season.

Ten years later, Pinkel had outgrown UT. There was nothing left for him to accomplish here.

I mean, seriously, folks, how many times can you get psyched up to play Eastern Michigan in front of 15,000 people at the Glass Bowl?

Football coaches thrive on bigger and better challenges. Next season Pinkel will be trying to beat the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas State and Texas.

Good luck, Gary. You're really going to need it. Missouri is in worse shape than the Rockets were when you took over.

Who's going to take over the Rockets? I predict that athletic director Pete Liske will make his first major coaching hire by going outside UT's immediate family for the next football coach.

Like Pinkel, Liske will be making a career decision.

Pinkel understands what he's getting into at Mizzou. And he knows it's worth the risk. Considering the alternative, there's no risk at all.

My advice is to forget about Pinkel, post-haste. He was ready to leave Toledo. Too ready.

One week after beating Bowling Green for the last time as the Rockets' coach, Pinkel will be house hunting in the next time zone. Clearly, he's had other things on his mind besides campaigning for the Rockets to go to a bowl game.

Pinkel didn't even wait to learn whether Toledo had received a bowl bid before taking the new job. What kind of message will that send to bowl officials regarding the Rockets?

For a coach who claimed he loved Toledo to death, Pinkel didn't waste any time leaving. Not even job-seeking Western Michigan coach Gary Darnell, the walking billboard, has been able to secure a new job this fast.

The day before he interviewed at Missouri, Pinkel interviewed for the Arizona State vacancy. Considering his fondness for the Pac 10 after spending 12 years at the University of Washington, I'm surprised Pinkel didn't wait to see how things turned out at Arizona State.

On the other hand, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden was anxious to hire a new coach this week. Alden's original plan after firing Larry Smith was to hire TCU's Dennis Franchione. However, after Franchione turned him down, Alden moved quickly to tie up Pinkel, whom he preferred over Darnell and Brent Venables, Oklahoma's 30-year old defensive coordinator.

Financially, Pinkel was very secure at Toledo. However, his $210,000 salary, while at the top of the scale in the Mid-American Conference, would probably pay for a decent offensive coordinator in the Big 12, Pinkel's new conference. At Missouri, Pinkel will at least triple his old salary.

Missouri offers Pinkel financial security along with peace of mind. Pinkel knows he can take his new team to a bowl game with seven or eight wins. Despite posting a 73-37-3 record at Toledo, Pinkel's teams have been to only one bowl. There's a good chance the 10-1 Rockets won't be bowl-bound this year either. That's somebody else's problem now.

John Harris is a Blade sports writer.

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