COLUMBIA, Mo. - Senior Day is supposed to be a day to celebrate and recognize the efforts of student-athletes as they play in their final home game.
This afternoon's festivities at Missouri will be missing a key part. There will be 26 seniors who will take to the field for the final time at Faurot Field. But they will be doing so for the first time without their head coach.
Following his arrest for driving while intoxicated Wednesday night, head coach Gary Pinkel will not be on the field with the seniors in their home finale against Texas Tech (2:30 p.m., KMIZ-TV).
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel will be the acting head coach for today's game.
Pinkel pleaded guilty to a Class B misdemeanor Friday. He received two years unsupervised probation. (See the police dash cam video of Pinkel's arrest here.)
In a letter addressed to fans Friday, Pinkel expressed his deepest regrets for missing Senior Day.
"It will be the most difficult day of my professional life to not be with my team this Saturday," Pinkel said. "My heart goes out to this group of seniors who will be playing their final home game at The Zou. They've accomplished so much and I'm very proud of them. Don't let my mistake shed a negative light on the many outstanding ways all of our players represent Mizzou."
On Monday, two days before the incident, Pinkel talked about the importance of Senior Day.
"It's a real emotional day," he said. "Our seniors have been real committed to us. It's really hard to explain to people what that's like. ... They've sacrificed so much to be a part of this program and to help build the program and maintain the program."
Players are only available for interviews after games and Monday afternoons.
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said he talked to the team Thursday afternoon, but did not indicate what type of reaction the team had.
Aside from the cloud left by Pinkel, today's game is intriguing in that it is nearly a mustwin game for both teams. Both have 5-5 records and need one more win to reach bowl eligibility. Texas Tech closes the regular season with a neutralsite game against No. 25 Baylor. Missouri ends the regular season with a game against 2-8 Kansas next Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Neither team wants to go into the final game with bowl eligibility hanging in the balance.
While Missouri (3-4 Big 12) has had its share of ups and downs this season, Texas Tech seems to be the definition of the phrase.
Texas Tech (2-5 Big 12) stunned No. 1 Oklahoma 41-38 on Oct. 22. However, three straight blowout losses have left the Red Raiders staring at the possibility of missing a bowl game.
The falloff is almost as stunning as the win against Oklahoma. The Red Raiders followed up their win with a 41-7 home loss to Iowa State, a 52-20 defeat at Texas and a 66-6 Senior Day loss to No. 2 Oklahoma State.
"We haven't played very well since the Oklahoma game," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We haven't had any consistency on either side of the ball."
Despite its troubles in recent games on offense, Texas Tech still has the 16th-ranked unit in the country, and seventh-best passing offense. Missouri has had trouble against high-octane passing teams like Arizona State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
But no matter what happens today, Missouri's first game since 2000 without Pinkel on the sideline will certainly have a different feel.
Notes: Senior defensive tackle Terrell Resonno will be one of the seniors honored prior to the game. Resonno has been a starter at defensive tackle this season. In 48 career games he has 78 tackles including nine for loss and four sacks. Resonno is a 2007 graduate of Jefferson City High School. ... Missouri leads the all-time series between the teams 5-3. The Tigers are 3-0 against the Red Raiders in Columbia. With Missouri's move to the SEC next year, this will be the final Big 12 meeting between the schools, and will serve as the final Big 12 game at Faurot Field.