Sometimes when things go bad, they can get worse in a hurry. Such is life around the University of Missouri lately. Mizzou just can’t seem to catch a break.
Head coach Gary Pinkel plans to resign at the conclusion of the 2015 season. While the official announcement blames unspecified health reasons for the decision, smart money says the recent unrest at the university as well as the defection of a large number of football players has at least contributed to the decision.
Mizzou insiders argue that Pinkel was diagnosed with lymphoma last May, so this is no surprise. The counter to this, though, is that doctors told Pinkel the diagnosis would not interfere with his coaching duties. The coach said that was always a ‘take it one day at a time’ decision.
Pinkel explained his decision in recent media reports: “I made the decision in May, after visiting with my family, that I wanted to keep coaching, as long as I felt good and had the energy I needed. I felt great going into the season, but also knew that I would need to re-assess things at some point, and I set our bye week as the time when I would take stock of the future. After we played Vanderbilt, I had a scheduled PET scan on Oct. 26th for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on October 27th that this would be my last year coaching…”
All that sounds completely reasonable. Then, there’s this: “I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that.”
Left unaddressed was the obvious elephant in the room. The announcement came mere days after several key players threatened to strike in a show of solidarity with other student protesters on campus. Meantime, Pinkel made a point of telling the media he felt pretty good and that the type of lymphoma he has is manageable. If Pinkel still feels good, and if, as has been widely reported, Mizzou still wants Pinkel to have a job in their athletic department, what gives?
Is it much of a stretch to think the coach just wants to get out of the way before the program implodes under the weight of all the cultural issues boiling over at the school? And can you blame him? More to the point … who do you get to replace him when the coach who left still plans to stay?
Ronn Torossian is a NY based PR executive and founder of 5W PR.