Missouri coach Gary Pinkel wasn’t asked about any interest he might have in the vacant Washington job Monday during his weekly news conference before Saturday’s SEC championship game, and he wouldn’t address it afterward.
No doubt, though, his name will come up as the Huskies search for Steve Sarkisian’s replacement. Sarkisian, who went 34-29 in five seasons in Seattle, accepted the same position at USC on Monday.
Pinkel has deep ties to the Huskies football program. He coached 13 seasons on the late Don James’ staff, beginning as the tight ends coach in 1976 and returning as Washington’s wide receivers coach from 1979-83 and offensive coordinator from 1984-90.
Still, it’s hard to see Pinkel leaving, especially after reaching an SEC championship game in only his second season in nation’s best college football conference.
Pinkel, 61, signed a two-year contract extension with the Tigers through the 2017 season in April 2011. He would owe the university $750,000 to terminate his contract.
Two years before he was hired at Missouri, Pinkel interviewed for the Washington job in 1999 along with friend and fellow James devotee, Chris Tormey, but the Huskies lured Rick Neuheisel away from Colorado instead.
Nine years later, Pinkel took a few phone calls but wasn’t believed to have even interviewed at Washington even though James, who died Oct. 20, hoped his protégé would take the job.
At that time, the Tigers were coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons, which included two Big 12 North championships and two conference title game appearances.
Now that Pinkel has established sure footing in the SEC with an 11-1 rebound season, it’s difficult — though not impossible — to envision Missouri’s head coach starting over again.
But if he wasn’t going then, it doesn’t seem to make sense now.
Pinkel is 101-62 in 13 seasons with the Tigers and tied Don Faurot for the most career coaching victories at MU with an SEC East-clinching victory Saturday against Texas A&M.
On Monday, Pinkel did say that he was impressed with Washington’s facilities upgrades when he visited last month for James’ memorial service.