Missouri coach Gary Pinkel to step down following cancer diagnosis

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel, who supported his African American players’ boycott of team activities backing campus protesters, said Friday that he has been battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma and will resign at the end of the season.

Related: Protesters welcome appointment of University of Missouri interim president

Pinkel, 63, was diagnosed with the form of blood cancer in May and received treatments through the spring, but never made his illness public until the university announced his resignation on Friday. Missouri will play BYU in Kansas City on Saturday night in a game that had already taken on immense significance given his players’ boycott that helped force the resignation of University president Tim Wolfe.

The players announced their boycott on Twitter last Saturday night, saying they would not practice or play until student Jonathan Butler ended a week-long hunger strike. Butler was demanding that Wolfe step down due to a lack of action on a series of racial incidents on campus. The next day, Pinkel tweeted a photo of nearly the entire team and coaching staff linking arms and said the whole program backed the boycott. Wolfe resigned on Monday and campus chancellor R Bowen Loftin was replaced later in the week.

Pinkel has become a polarizing figure in Missouri this week. Many graduates have criticized him for supporting his players, saying he threw the campus into chaos. He was later scored by the protesters after he told a Kansas City sports radio station that he should not have included a reference to their protest in his tweet.

Pinkel said he had already made the decision to step down on 27, October the day after undergoing a PET scan.

“I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that, he said in the announcement.

“I want to make clear that I am not doing poorly and that this is a manageable disease but one that will not go away,” he added.

Pinkel is 117-71 in 15 years at Missouri, a program he has revived and is 19th on the all-time college football victory list with 190 wins. Missouri won the SEC East the last two years yet has struggled to a 4-5 record this year.

But he is now best-known for his social stands in recent years. In addition to backing his African American players’ boycott, he also supported defensive end Michael Sam when Sam told the team he is gay before the 2013 season.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Les Carpenter, for theguardian.com on Friday 13th November 2015 22.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010