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November 17, 2011
Wednesday night happened and Gary Pinkel cannot change that. A little after 10 o'clock, he was pulled over and arrested on suspicion of DWI.
As of right now, no charges have been filed. Based upon the fact that his initial statement said, "Nobody should drink and drive, including me," and upon the fact that he has taken a financial hit of more than $300,000 and stated, "I fully accept the terms of this suspension," it would seem this issue won't simply go away. According to police, Pinkel was cooperative and it appears he is on board with Mizzou's disciplinary actions.
So what happened on Wednesday night happened. The bigger question now, for the coach, the program and the fans, is what does it mean?
What it means immediately to Pinkel is that it cannot happen again. If it does, he will be out of a job. Not for a week, but for good.
Athletic director Mike Alden said repeatedly that Wednesday was an isolated incident. He said that should something occur in the future, Pinkel would be subject to "disciplinary action up to and including termination."
The coach just used strikes one and two.
But most assume that Pinkel, a man who has had not even a hint of such things in the past, learned a lesson. The mistake was simply that and is unlikely to be repeated. So the more pressing question becomes, what does this mean for Pinkel's program?
Has the coach lost credibility with his players, especially considering that three of them were suspended for two games following alcohol-related arrests a year ago and Pinkel is serving only half of that?
"I think this is a tremendous statement to our student-athletes and what we're all about," Alden said of the punishment. "I don't think there's a cookie cutter approach that you can be able to apply to every case. It would seem simplistic to be able to do that and I don't think it is. I think there are lots of circumstances that you have to be able to look at."
Pinkel spoke to the team at 2:45 on Thursday and said in a statement he had already apologized to his players and coaches.
"My staff and I constantly reinforce with each of our players the importance of not putting yourself into a position such as this," the statement read in part. "I did not follow that here and for that, I sincerely apologize to the University of Missouri, to our administration, to the Board of Curators and to our fans. I have already met with our staff and communicated with our players and have apologized to them."
Beyond his current players, no doubt some damage has been done to Pinkel's reputation. How much? And how quickly can it be repaired? Those are answers that won't be known for some time. But Alden has confidence in Pinkel's ability to restore what had been a sterling reputation.
"I think you build up a certain level of credibility over the course of many years. And Gary has done a great job on that," he said. "But certainly that credibility takes a hit when something like this takes place. I think it's incumbent upon you as an individual to work to be able to gain back that credibility. Do I think Gary can do that? Absolutely. I don't think there's any question that he can.
"Gary is someone with tremendous character and integrity and he is someone that over the course of the 11 years that he has been here and all the years preceding when he came to Mizzou, has exemplified those characteristics ... He's built something pretty special here at Mizzou over the course of the last 11 years and we do not want one instance to be able to tear down what's taken place over the course of 11 years."
That is now Pinkel's mission. He has a week off serving his suspension. The repairs will start the second he steps back on campus next Thursday morning.
Along the way, there will be tough questions to answer. Not just from reporters or from players, but from recruits and their parents. Pinkel's answers to those questions can begin the repair process. Only his actions can complete it.
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