This time last season, if someone asked which Southeastern Conference coach had the hottest seat, there would have been one simple answer. The coach that had to feel the most pressure to produce in 2013 was Gary Pinkel, head coach of the Missouri Tigers.
And boy, did he produce. All Pinkel did was coach his team to a 12-2 overall record, including a 7-1 record in the SEC. That was good enough to win the SEC’s Eastern Division and to earn an appearance in the SEC Championship Game. Mizzou was not able to beat the red-hot Auburn Tigers in Atlanta, but a Cotton Bowl victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys capped an improbable season.
In the prior season, which was Missouri’s first in the SEC, the Tigers seemed to be overmatched. Not only did Mizzou take a beating on the scoreboard, posting just a 5-7 record, but also physically. Numerous players went down with injury in 2012, including quarterback James Franklin. That did not make the transition to the nation’s most powerful football conference any easier.
After the 5-7 debacle, Pinkel vowed that his team would be better prepared, both mentally and physically, for the rigors of the SEC. Pinkel’s offseason program was tough, and it prepared his team for a brutal schedule.
The results speak for themselves. And, in the process of saving his job, Pinkel became the winningest coach in school history, passing Don Faurot‘s mark of 101 wins.
The moral of the story is, the next time Gary Pinkel is backed into a tough spot, bet on him to come out of that situation with flying colors.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.