Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel was introduced Sunday as the 20th head football coach in Missouri State history, ending a 14-year run as an assistant with the Tigers.
“You have no idea how hard it was today to go to practice and face my players, because I don’t lie to people, to tell them that we were looking at this,” Steckel said. “We were late for the press conference, because I promised every one of them I would text them about Mary Beth and I’s decision. I love those guys, and it’s going to be tough to miss them.”
Steckel, 57, was Gary Pinkel’s defensive-line coach at Toledo during 1992-95 before spending five seasons at Rutgers as a defensive assistant.
He rejoined Pinkel at MU in 2001 and was the Tigers’ linebackers coach until he was promoted to defensive coordinator before the 2009 season.
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This year, Steckel’s defense ranked first during SEC play, allowing 300.8 total yards and 115 rushing yards, and was second in allowing 185.8 passing yards and 19.1 points per game.
Steckel, who will stay on Pinkel’s staff through the Citrus Bowl, was the only defensive coach among five finalists for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.
“We’re so happy for Stec having the opportunity to run his own program,” Pinkel said in a statement. “He’s wanted to be a head coach for a long time now, and it’s exciting for all of us that he’s got his chance.”
Steckel takes over for Terry Allen after the Bears, an FCS school that plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, went 4-8 last season.
“With him, a new attitude and culture begins today,” Missouri State athletic director Kyle Moats said.
As MU’s defensive coordinator, Steckel received a raise in March to $600,000. He’ll make $270,000 at Missouri State on a five-year contract, which will be formally approved at the Jan. 21 Missouri State Board of Governors’ meeting.
“It’s not about the money,” Steckel said. “If I was worried about money, I’d still be at Mizzou. … It’s about the relationships with players. It’s about building lives and taking care of each other. If it was about the money, I wouldn’t be standing here.”
Missouri State also committed an additional $50,000 into the pool of money for assistant coaches and will continue adding to that during “the next three to four years to get the assistant coach pool up to the average in the Valley,” Smart said.
“There’s an enormous excitement already about this hire, and I think the bulk of that money we’ll be able to raise privately,” Missouri State president Clif Smart III said.
Steckel, a former Marine with a reputation for toughness, said his program with emphasize integrity, academics and community service, but he also plans to make the Bears — who’ve made the playoffs only twice in school history — competitive.
“We’re going to build this through hard work,” Steckel said. “Nothing has ever been accomplished without hard work. That starts with me, and the players’ task is going to be to outwork me.”
Several Tigers players took to Twitter after Sunday’s announcement.
“I can honestly say I’m blessed to have had Stec as my (defensive coordinator) for my college career wouldn’t have wanted to get yelled at by anyone else,” senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent, an Olathe North graduate, said in a tweet.
Pinkel now must search for a new coordinator for only the fourth time in 14 seasons at Missouri.
Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus left after the 2008 season, while Christensen’s replacement, David Yost, resigned after the 2012 season.
Tigers defensive-line coach Craig Kuligowski and Memphis defensive coordinator Barry Odom, an MU graduate and former Pinkel assistant, are considered the leading candidates to replace Steckel.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.