By Justin Parmer
Mizzou Athletics didn’t allow the speculation of the job security of head coach Barry Odom didn’t last long. Not even 24 hours removed from Missouri’s final game of the season, athletic director Jim Sterk announced that Odom would not be returning for the 2020 football season.
The university also announced that Senior Associate Head Coach Brick Haley has been named Interim Head Coach until names a permanent successor.
“As a program, we had tremendous momentum coming into the 2019 season with the opening of the new south end zone facility as well as other strategic investments in our football program,” Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement. “However, we lost a great deal of that energy during the last half of the season. This decision was difficult to make but was necessary.”
The news came to the former head coach by phone. Players were immediately notified by Sterk through the phone as well.
“Given the timing, I expected to meet with players, but part of them had already dispersed so we decided to do a phone call,” Sterk said. “We tried to beat anything out there on Twitter and almost did.”
Odom and the Missouri stuttered out of the gate, losing in Wyoming in the season opener. The Tigers followed the disappointing loss by winning five straight games resulting in the Tigers ranked status in the week eight AP poll. At that point, Missouri also held the lead for the SEC East.
The Tigers then proceeded to lose five games in a row, including an ugly loss to Vanderbilt (who finished 3-9) on the road. Missouri capped a disappointing season with a win on the road at 2-10 Arkansas, bringing the Tigers to a 6-6 record.
The win in Little Rock would have granted the Tigers a third bowl game appearance under Odom’s four-year tenure, but Tuesday’s decision by the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee to uphold MU’s one-year postseason ban will keep the Tigers out of any postseason play.
In a press conference Saturday, Sterk said the decision to fire Odom was “not an easy one, but supported by Chancellor Cartwright and President Choi.” He also said the decision to keep Odom was not set in stone prior to the Tigers final game- rather, “made in the 24 to 48 hours prior.”
The decision comes less than a year after Odom was signed to a three-year contract extension through the 2024 season. In four seasons, Odom lead the Missouri Tigers to 25-25 record during his four-year tenure while going 13-19 in Southeastern Conference games.
Odom’s firing will come at a hefty cost. In order to buyout the remaining part of Odom’s contract the university will have to pay Odom nearly 3 million dollars. Sterk appeared fine with financial situation of a buyout, stating that he and Tim Hickman and the athletic department’s CFO. The meetings were Cartwright and the university’s CFO concerning finances long before Saturday’s announcement.
Odom began his career with the Tigers back in 1996 as a linebacker. He played all four years with the school, ending his playing career with 362 tackles, which still ranks as seventh-most in school history. Odom was a captain for his senior year of 1999 and was part of Missouri’s bowl runs in 1997 and 1998, ending a 14-year postseason drought for Missouri.
After coaching high school football for a few years, Odom returned to the Missouri Tigers in 2003 as a administrative graduate assistant. Odom rose through the ranks of the Missouri program before leaving the program in 2012 to become the defensive head coach for the University of Memphis.
Odom spent three years with Memphis and built a strong defensive unit. Odom’s 2014 defense was a key component of Memphis’ 10-3 season, as his unit finished the regular season ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense (17.1 avg.) and 22nd in total defense (343.3 avg.). The Memphis Tigers were ranked amongst the bottom 20 teams in the FBS prior to Barry’s arrival. He returned to Missouri in 2015, before taking over the head coaching duties in 2016 for after long time head coach Gary Pinkel retired.
“All of us really appreciate what he’s done and contributed to the university and the program,” Sterk said. “Mizzou is really thankful for his contributions. I know how hard he and his staff have worked this past season and the previous three to make our program better. Coach Odom has dedicated himself to developing our student-athletes, on and off the field, for which we’re really grateful.”
As far as who will be replacing Odom, Sterk said the university stated that a national search has begun to find the program’s next head coach and that the university meaning that he “won’t be accessible for public comments or comment on any search ‘til the next football coach is hired.”
Rumored candidates include Memphis’ Mike Norvell, Louisiana’s Bill Napier, and Washington State’s Mike Leach. When asked about what type of coach he would like to have installed into the program, Sterk said experience is a priority- in either an offensive or defensive-first coach.
“It’s it definitely a benefit of being experienced at this level,” Sterk said. “I’ve said before, the SEC is not for the faint of heart. You have to know what you’re getting into. Experience in the SEC or competitiveness at a high level is important. Not an absolute but it’s, it’s pretty important to have it and understand what you’re getting into initially.”
Sterk made mentioned that the University of Missouri would use Parker Executive Search Firm, to help in the searching process. Parker Executive Search Firm is the same company that the university of Missouri used to hire men’s basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin in 2017. As far as a timeline, Sterk stated the program hopes to have its head coach within the next two weeks.
“We need to try to act swiftly, be upfront with the potential candidates: ‘Here’s what we’re looking for, here’s what we want to do,’” Sterk said. “We’re going to have a lot of interest, so we’ll have to gage who’s truly interested. I don’t want to talk to someone who is just trying to leverage for a better contract. I want someone that wants to be here that can lead this program in the right way.”
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org