Fans and students react to Coach Gary Pinkels retirement announcement

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COLUMBIA - MU Head Football Coach Gary Pinkel announced Friday that he will be retiring following the end of this season because of health issues. Pinkel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma earlier this year.

"I want to make very clear that I'm not doing poorly, and that this is a manageable disease, but it's one that will never go away," Pinkel said. "Words can't express how grateful I am to the University of Missouri and all of the amazing people who make it up, from the administration to the students and our fans."

Pinkel said he made the decision to step down a couple of weeks ago following a PET scan.

"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," Pinkel said.

Governor Jay Nixon released a statement Friday regarding Pinkel's decision, and other organizations have also begun voicing their support for the coach as he steps down. 

Greg Stringfellow is a business student at MU and also worked as a manager for the football team for two years.

"He cares about everyone that works in the program. He cares about everyone that plays in the program," Stringfellow said. "That's why it's even harder that this is happening to him."

Former Division III football player Troy Vars said having a great head coach makes a tremendous difference on the field. He said Pinkel brought that impact to Mizzou's program.

"He's the winningest coach of MU football history, so I think that means something," Vars said. "That he is for sure an important leader for the football team, I think, is quite clear."

Columbia resident Jerrell Lee said he would not be surprised to see more changes to the team's staff in the near future.

"I mean, with coaching staff, no telling who else is going to resign after Gary Pinkel," Lee said. "So we have to just pick and choose, we just have to work together."

Susan Webster, a long-time fan, recalled her first reaction to the news.

"It really hit me. I thought wow, this is pretty devastating," Webster said.

Pinkel will leave in December after finishing out his fifteenth and final season. In the meantime, MU will begin the search for a new head football coach.