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Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel

Very few college football coaches earn the distinction of becoming their programs' winningest, but Gary Pinkel has done it twice -- at Toledo and Missouri. Pinkel took the Tigers to 10 bowl games in his 15 seasons. In the 15 seasons before he arrived in Columbia, the program made two bowl appearances. In The 100-Yard Journey, Pinkel writes about challenges in his personal and professional life.

I had to make a strong impression with my new players at Missouri. Almost every time I raised my voice at players, it was calculated. Not to say I didn't lose my temper at times, but for the most part those blow-ups were planned in advance. For my first team meeting I had one hope: I wanted a player to show up late. Wish granted. Thank you, Jamonte Robinson. He was a linebacker in the program, great kid. But he popped in late to our first team meeting. I flipped out on him. "Don't you ever, ever, ever be a second late for my meetings or I'll throw your ass out!" And I did. I had to instill the message. We were going to be disciplined. We were going to be accountable. We were going to be responsible. One second late is late. I didn't realize what kind of impact that first meeting would have, but for years players from that first team would tell me they walked out of the room knowing things had changed.

Gary Pinkel

After I got settled in, my old friend Coach Lauterbur told me, "They don't know that they don't know."

I walked away from that conversation thinking, "What the hell is he talking about?" Then I realized his point. When you take over a new program after a coach gets fired, all the returning players must be thinking they're not the problem; it was the coaching that wasn't any good. Give us a new coach and we'll be fine. The reality is it's probably a combination of both factors. Mistakes are made in recruiting and you have players who aren't good enough for the team to win. Maybe the coaching wasn't very good either. 

But the past doesn't matter. We had to establish our standards. Not rules, not regulations. Standards. This isn't the United States Army. We had standards and they were consistent. Our players would know exactly where they stood. We loved them but didn't back off discipline. You can't run a disciplined program without sticking to the standards and the details.

By our third year, the players started talking like me. My family pointed that out to me. They'd hear our players talk in interviews and they noticed. It goes back to your staff, too. You can't have three coaches handle discipline issues one way and another three coaches handle problems another way. If a running back is two minutes late and gets disciplined differently than a linebacker who's also two minutes late, that causes friction within your program -- not when you're winning but when you're going through struggles. We needed consistency. And consistency would lead to trust. When you start to develop trust, your players climb on board to your process.

At Toledo, I was the players' third head coach in three years. The program there was winning, so this change was difficult for the players. I changed a lot of things they were doing and they wanted some stability.

I walked into an entirely different environment at Missouri. It was a losing culture. That mentality impacts how you think and act, and when adversity comes, everything gets magnified.

We understood the culture had to change. We had to demand excellence and attention to detail. We had to get these kids to understand that all the tiny details of our program had to be important to them. This losing culture was similar to the situation Coach James walked into at Kent State when I was a player. But unlike Coach James, I came into the Missouri job with a track record of success as a head coach. I knew we could clean this up. But it was going to be very difficult.

Gary Pinkel

Our first winter conditioning workout illustrated the situation we inherited. We had strict standards for these 6:00 am drills. For one, don't even think about putting your hands on your knees when you get tired. Players rotated through three different stations and had to follow commands at each one. They had to start and finish each drill the right way every time -- just like a football play. These players had no concept of the discipline we demanded. One of our first workouts, we had probably about 20 players leave the field and climb the stairs toward the exit of the Devine Pavilion because they wanted to quit. I told them, "Go ahead. Because we're not going to change." They all came back down and finished the drills.

All the while, I kept my eyes on my staff. They looked so frustrated. They couldn't believe how undisciplined these players were compared to what we left behind at Toledo.

Weeks earlier when I told my Toledo coaches I was taking the Missouri job, I told them there would be nothing easy about this challenge. Yeah, we were moving into a bigger conference with more bowl bids, more money, more exposure. But this job was going to be hard. That's why a lot of people thought I was crazy. Five straight Missouri coaches had been fired from 1977 to 2000. They had just two winning seasons in 17 years.

After that first workout, we talked to the players, then the staff went into the coaches' locker room. Almost every one of the assistants had his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. It was like a state of depression had swept over the staff. I had to say something. "Guys," I told them, "there's a reason why we're here. Now you know."

After that day's workout, I began to believe my friends might have been right. I was crazy.

-- Excerpted by permission from The 100-Yard Journey: A Life in Coaching and Battling for the Win by Gary Pinkel With Dave Matter. Copyright (c) 2017. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Gary Pinkel on Twitter @GaryPinkel. Follow Dave Matter on Twitter @Dave_Matter.