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The most important part of Barry Odom’s contract

Missouri fans should know what to expect from the program — because the athletic department’s expectations are in Odom’s contract.

NCAA Football: SEC Football Media Day Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t take long to find the most important part of Barry Odom’s new contract. It’s in Paragraph 1, after all.

It reads:

“... Any season during the term in which Employee was serving as head coach and in which the football team wins at least nine (9) regular season and post-season games combined, the term of this Contract for Employment shall automatically be extended for one (1) additional year.”

I feel like expectations have been a big focus for Missouri fans this season, maybe more than past seasons. We expected Missouri to take a step forward this season; we expected certain players (Drew Lock, Emanuel Hall, Terry Beckner Jr.) to have transcendent seasons. We expected Missouri to do better than 7-6.

But when Missouri stumbled through through a 1-4 stretch during the meat of the schedule, those preconceived expectations turned into hot-seat chatter for Odom — even though an improvement from 7-6 was still very much on the table.

It all comes down to expectations for the program itself. The bull years of 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2014 seemed to drastically inflate the expectations for what Missouri should be, year in and year out.

I’ve always said that the baseline for Missouri going forward — really since Brad Smith went bats*** crazy in the 2005 Independence Bowl and probably saved Gary Pinkel’s tenure, along with the trajectory of the program — should be eight wins. That’s eight wins, with or without a bowl win. Then, in cyclical fashion as stronger-than-average recruiting classes age through Missouri’s system, they should be able to go on two-year runs with anywhere from nine to 11 wins being possible.

Those cycles won’t always be possible, because it will depend on Missouri’s opponents, especially in the SEC East, and their own individual program cycles.

But Missouri should be a steady eight-win program. It could win seven one year; it could win nine the next. Over the course of any two-to-three years, though, Missouri should be an eight-win program. If you average every four-to-five years, it should be slightly better.

It seems, based on that rider added in Barry Odom’s contract, that Jim Sterk would agree.

Any time Odom wins nine games in a season — regular season wins or including postseason wins — his contract is automatically renewed for another year. If eight wins should be the steady-ground mark for Missouri football, then nine wins is what gets rewarded.

This isn’t about the program settling. This isn’t about fans settling. “We should be aiming for ten wins every year!,” you may say. “We should be competing with Georgia and Alabama!”

That’s a great goal. I, too, have great goals. I should be competing for Pulitzers. I should be earning seven figures a year.

If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. If it were that easy, the line to the coaching carousel would be closed, save for retirements.

The nine-win rider in Odom’s contract should lay bare expectations for Missouri’s program. Eight wins won’t result in a coaching change — not anytime soon, anyway. Anything more than that should get rewarded. It won’t always be that way. If Missouri becomes a nine-to-ten wins-a-year program, Odom’s contract will get extended, again.

That nine-win rider would likely change to 10 or 11 or 12.

But for now, an eight-win average should be the expectation. Nine or more means Odom’s tenure may eventually rival Pinkel himself.