Missouri's Pinkel embracing future after likely final game in loss at Arkansas

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FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Gary Pinkel held his tears in check this time, even doing his best to show a sense of humor following Missouri's regular season-ending 28-3 loss to Arkansas on Friday.

Losing for a sixth time in seven games wasn't how the all-time winningest coach in school history saw his end coming.

But then again, the 63-year-old Pinkel hadn't really thought about the end until his diagnosis with lymphoma in May — something he revealed publicly earlier this month while announcing his resignation following the end of the season.

Pinkel cried that day, more because of thoughts of his players than himself and his 25-year head coaching career.

On Friday, in a rainy Razorback Stadium for the first time, he kept his emotions in check — joking following the loss that Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades "wants me out tomorrow at 8 o'clock in the morning."

"Last week, I got hit pretty good," Pinkel said. "I tried to have a little self-discipline here. I love Mizzou, and not being on the field again, I don't really know how to embrace that.

"I'll probably get up and think I'm going to go to work tomorrow morning."

While the possibility still exists that Missouri could get a bowl invitation if enough teams don't win the needed six games, there's no guarantee the Tigers would even accept following a tumultuous season that included Pinkel's pending exit and temporary player boycott.

If Friday was indeed the end for Pinkel, the Kent State alumnus finishes his career as a head coach with an overall record of 191-110-3. He's 117-70 in 15 seasons at Missouri, which includes five 10-win seasons — after the school had just one double-digit campaign in the previous 110.

The Tigers struggled the second half of this season, particularly on offense. Despite the struggles, Pinkel was focused on the big picture following Friday's loss, including the school's back-to-back Southeastern Conference East Division titles the last two seasons and his commitment to family time in the immediate future.

"I feel honored that we could build a program with integrity and a program that had a lot of success, even though the last few games we didn't," Pinkel said.

In addition to his joke about cleaning out his office in the morning, Pinkel also showed a lighter side while talking about Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. The two have become close in Bielema's three seasons in the SEC, and Pinkel couldn't resist commenting on the former Wisconsin coach's seeming never-ending supply of bravado.

"He carries himself with a lot of confidence; that might be an understatement," Pinkel said.

Bielema had talked for two weeks about his respect for Pinkel, and he continued following Friday's game.

"I'm very, very appreciative of everything he's brought the game, and I want to wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward," Bielema said. "We're with him in 100 percent support from us here at Arkansas."

Following a talk from Pinkel in Missouri's somber locker room after the game, the enormity of Pinkel's exit — and the uncertainty of the future — began to set in for the Tigers.

"Hearing coach Pinkel talk about the future and knowing he won't be a part of it, knowing I won't be a part of it, that's just sad," Missouri senior safety Ian Simon said. "That's tough to hear, but that's life. All good things got to come to an end at some point."

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