Road to 1991 Perfection: Pinkel Shared in the National Championship Rewards

The former University of Washington offensive coordinator took a midseason beating but he was there to see the Huskies run the table for a title.

Gary Pinkel survived his 1991 University of Washington football reunion with no lasting scars.

Following Toledo's one-sided 48-0 defeat at Husky Stadium, which involved nearly the entire UW team hugging and high-fiving the first-year head coach afterward, guided the Rockets to a respectable 5-5-1 record. 

Once the season ended, Pinkel had to see his previous work through.

The one-time, 12-year UW assistant coach and offensive coordinator attended the Rose Bowl to watch his former players finish their national championship run against Michigan.

That was not the end of it.

Husky coach Don James later presented him with a UW national championship ring.

"That meant a lot to me," Pinkel said. "I felt a part of it."

That shouldn't have been the end of his close association with the Husky football program either, but in the shortsighted of the school's athletic administrators it was.

Pinkel spent 10 seasons at Toledo and enjoyed a lot of success, guiding the Mid-American Conference team to 11-0-1 and 10-1 records.

Missouri took notice and hired him in 2001, where he took the Tigers to 10 bowl games in 15 seasons and turned the program into a powerhouse that eventually moved from the Big 12 to the SEC.

Pinkel compiled a 191-110-3 career record that made him both Toledo's and Missouri's winningest football coach. 

Washington, long a school built on tradition, twice entertained the idea of bringing back Pinkel to re-energize a Husky program that was badly listing only to choose someone else.

In 1998, athletic director Barbara Hedges bypassed Pinkel and another former UW assistant Chris Tormey for the glitzy Rick Neuheisel, only to fire him over a betting scandal and send the program into ruin.

Pinkel later pulled out of coaching searches at Michigan and Washington once more in order to finish what he was doing at Missouri. He nearly put the Tigers in the national championship game a couple of times. In 2015, he retired from coaching to deal with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. 

He returned to Seattle for James' memorial service in the basketball arena and for the coach's statue unveiling outside of Husky Stadium. 

Pinkel, while never the Husky football leader, left an decided impact on the program. He rose through the ranks to make himself a legendary coach elsewhere. He recruited All-American defensive tackle Steve Emtman, which will be detailed in another segment. He's the one who insisted to James that they hire Keith Gilbertson and bring the spread offense to Montlake, and he benefitted from that offensive collaboration in his later coaching stops. 

"I loved Seattle," Pinkel said. "That would have been an awesome opportunity."

He still keeps in touch with his one-time Husky coaching peers, just last week trading messages with Matt Simon. 

Pinkel, who discusses his Missouri success in this video, forever carries this thought with him, "I'll always be a Husky."

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