Best Coach

Gary Pinkel

We may look foolish giving Gary Pinkel this honor with so much of Mizzou's 2014 football season yet to be played. But Gary Pinkel still merits his due from last year. That's the season that most pigskin pundits predicted University of Missouri to finish in the bottom of the Southeastern Conference, and why not? The team was coming off a dismal 2012 SEC debut and a 5-7 record. But 2013 proved that Pinkel and his team still had fire, with Mizzou advancing to the SEC championship game and winning the Cotton Bowl on its way to a No. 8 finish in the BCS and a 12-2 record. What made it all the sweeter is that Mizzou and Pinkel racked up all those wins while keeping secret the news that would rock the sports world a few weeks after the season — when the Tigers star defensive end, Michael Sam, revealed his sexuality and announced that he'd be the first openly gay player to enter the NFL draft. Sam had told his Mizzou teammates and coaches he was gay months earlier, and they rallied around him. Pinkel sat down with Sam and asked him what he wanted to do — come out now or leave it a team secret? Sam responded: "I do not want to have any distractions for our football team. We've got to concentrate on football, and I'll [come out] at another time." And so they did.

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