Gary Pinkel’s tenure as head coach of the Missouri Tigers had enough triumphs, losses, joy and heartbreak to fill a book. So that’s exactly what he (and cowriter Dave Matter) did. They wrote one.
The 100-Yard Journey: A Life in Coaching and Battling for the Win was released by Triumph Books on September 15, just as the football season kicked into full gear. “After I decided to retire from coaching, several people suggested that I write a book — I said, ‘right, like I’m writing a book,’ ” Pinkel says. “It was something I had never thought about. But several authors and publishers started contacting me, and it began getting serious. I became excited about doing it.”
The book draws back the curtain for an honest look at a sometimes tumultuous, always fast-changing and ultimately successful period in Mizzou’s football archives. “He may not have won a national or conference championship at Missouri, however, he experienced so much more in those 15 years than most coaches do in an entire lifetime,” says Matter, the Mizzou beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There was the tragic death of Aaron O’Neal, the coming-out of Michael Sam, conference realignment, issues in his personal life and the campus unrest and boycott threat in 2015.
“There is no manual on how to get through these types of things. There is no one to call and ask how to handle a player coming out as gay to his teammates,” Matter continues.
Matter may be the ideal writer to delve into Pinkel’s story. He took over as Mizzou beat writer for the Columbia Tribune in 2000, one year before Pinkel was hired, and covered him through his retirement. An interview over coffee at Lakota in September 2016 solidified the project. “At the end of the interview, I asked if he still wanted to write a book,” Matter says. “He asked if I would be interested, and I said ‘Absolutely.’ ”
Pinkel’s agent negotiated a contract with Triumph Books with a (very) short fuse to have the publication released by the following year’s football season. Matter credits a wealth of sources for their insights — Pinkel’s wife, Missy; his sister, Kathleen, and daughter, Erin; former athletic director Mike Alden; and Chad Moller, assistant athletic director for strategic communications. Most importantly, he praises Pinkel for his willingness to open up about personal challenges.