University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel, who backed a boycott by his players unless University President Tim Wolfe resigned over criticism of his handling of racism, said Monday it was the right thing to do and he'd "do it again."
"Football became secondary," said Pinkel, who tweeted a photo Sunday of the entire team standing together in a show of unity.
Pinkel said one of his biggest responsibilities as a coach is to mold young men into leaders, and if "they want to get more involved with the campus ... I think that's a positive development."
"I would do it again," he said, adding that the bottom line is "they're my kids, and I love those guys."
Wolfe resigned two days after black members of the football team said they wouldn't play and a week after a graduate student started a hunger strike. They accused Wolfe of having been slow off the mark and seemingly insensitive in responding to complaints of racial slurs and harassment.
Black students say they've been taunted by white students using racial slurs, but protesters have also complained about homophobic incidents and other hateful attacks, most recently on Oct. 24, when a swastika was scrawled in human feces on a dormitory wall.
The controversy has been simmering for two months, but the football team's intervention over the weekend gave it national scope. The team canceled practice Sunday — with the full support of Pinkel, who is widely respected in college sports both for his team's consistent winning and for its high graduation rate.
University athletic director Mack Rhoades, who joined Pinkel at a news conference Monday afternoon, said the hunger strike by graduate student Jonathan Butler fueled the football players' boycott.
"His life was at stake, and that was real for our players," Rhoades said. "And so our student-athletes, they decided to get involved, and quite frankly simple we supported them."
Rhoades said the situation "has been a great learning experience for everyone," especially the players, who he said "decided to be leaders in this issue."
Rhoades said he met with the men's and women's basketball teams and then with coaches of all the rest of Missouri's sports teams Sunday night and Monday morning. He said he gave them the green light to join the football team's actions if they chose to.
"Sometimes extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures," he said.