COLUMBIA, Mo. — Suspended Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that he "failed miserably" as a role model after his recent drunken-driving arrest and guilty plea.
Speaking on the fifth day of a weeklong, unpaid suspension handed down hours after the Nov. 16 incident, Pinkel met with reporters at his attorney's office to publicly discuss his arrest and subsequent conviction for the first time. The coach said he convened the news conference to reduce distractions as the Tigers prepare to face Kansas on Saturday, perhaps for the final time in the schools' 120-year rivalry as Missouri looks to leave the Big 12 Conference for the SEC as soon as next season.
"As you know, I've taken full responsibility for my lack of judgment and poor decision," he said. "I've hurt and disappointed a lot of people ... I've always tried to be a good and positive role model.
"Now it's up to me to begin earning everyone's trust and respect back," he added. "This will never, ever happen again."
Pinkel, 59 and in his 11th season with the Tigers, did not coach during a last-minute, 31-27 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, a victory that makes Missouri (6-5) eligible for a seventh consecutive bowl appearance. He instead watched the game on television with friends at a Lake of the Ozarks condominium, calling his absence for the final home game of his senior players "gut-wrenching."
"If we didn't win that game, I would have had to live with that for the rest of my life," Pinkel said.
Pinkel plans to return to work on Thanksgiving as the Tigers prepare for the neutral site game against their oldest rival at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Two days after his arrest, Pinkel appeared at a hastily scheduled court hearing and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving. He received a 30-day suspended sentence along with two years' probation — a sentence both his lawyers and Boone County prosecutors said is standard for first offenders in DWI cases.
Following his plea, the Boone County Sheriff's Office released a dashboard camera video of Pinkel's arrest .The recording shows Pinkel stumbling over a request to recite the alphabet and unable to count backward from 73 to 62. He told the arresting officer he had consumed two "jumbo" glasses of wine over 90 minutes during a post-practice dinner with friends at a Columbia restaurant.
Court records show that Pinkel was driving just after 10 p.m. Wednesday when he failed to signal a lane change and then took a wide turn that crossed a double yellow line, nearly hitting a curb. Pinkel refused the deputy's request to take a breath test and also initially refused to provide a blood sample. He later consented to the blood test after the deputy took him to a nearby hospital. Those results will likely not be processed now that Pinkel has pleaded guilty.
Bogdan Susan, one of several attorneys who represented Pinkel, said the quick plea deal was not an attempt to evade further scrutiny or to keep the results of his blood-alcohol test from being released.
"It's a very common thing," said Susan, who handles numerous alcohol-related offenses. "The majority of (DWI) cases are resolved without a blood sample."
Legal penalties aside, the incident could cost Pinkel as much as $306,000. Under the school's punishment, he forfeits a $75,000 bonus his contract stipulates for bowl appearances as well as a $100,000 annual payment for meeting certain team academic and social responsibility goals. He also loses an automatic $50,000 raise at the end of the year and one week's worth of his base salary and guaranteed incentives. The coach plans to donate another week's worth of his salary and incentives to a campus alcohol education effort.
Pinkel, who win or lose rarely shows much outward emotion, was noticeably contrite during his brief session with reporters.
"I'm 59 years old. I can't ever remember once hurting my family, my friends, the team I was associated with as a coach and as a player, ever," he said. "This is one of the most devastating things to ever happen to me personally."
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier
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