Barry Odom will be a fine head coach someday. Unfortunately, he will not get the chance to show that at the University of Missouri. We’ll collectively look back someday and mutter, “damn, why couldn’t he do that here?”. And we’ll remember the constant churning of the assistant pool, the lack of preparedness week to week, and the awful on-field discipline issues that plagues his tenure and realize that learning on the job is hard, learning on the job in the SEC is damn near impossible.
So where do we go from here?
We all want to live in a world where coaching candidates see Missouri as a sleeping giant, a program with a world of potential that they would kill for a chance to take over and bring to the higher level. The actual situation is that Missouri is a historically middle-pack program with lower funding and resources than its peers in a conference that feasts on the weak and exposes any flaws quickly and ruthlessly. In addition to already being behind, Missouri is now faced with a massive $10 million penalty (that’s being covered by the University), severance for its now-former head coach and assistants, and needs to buy the services of a coach who will face restricted recruiting capabilities while trying to salvage a decent recruiting class and keep the inevitable defections from the current roster to an absolute minimum. Coaches are competitive-junkies by nature but this will be a tough situation to walk in to and turn around. Even with a longer leash the job itself is not that much more appealing to outsiders that it was in 2015.
I want to touch on some possible candidates that Sterk will/should call but, to be clear, I am approaching this from the perspective I listed above. What does that mean? Well, for one, I wouldn’t want to hire anyone who doesn’t already have head coaching experience. Second, it needs to be someone who can be cheap(ish). And third, I want someone who has experience operating at a peer-level deficit, someone who can do more with less, and is used to maximizing scarce resources.
Here are the names that I assume we’ll be hearing about, as well as some brief thoughts of my own. We’ll have a more thorough, deep dive analysis of each as we get through next week.
Matt Campbell - Iowa State
Excellent coaching pedigree, coming from the prolific Mount Union program as both a player and coach, and doing less with more at Toledo and Iowa State. The boxes are certainly checked from a resource management and maximization of potential perspective, but I can’t imagine Sterk takes a look his way. Why? Because it’ll take $6 million just to get him out of Ames, let alone the dollars thrown into his contract and the bucket for his assistant pool. Unless there’s some Missouri booster(s) who want to pony up that kind of cash it’s hard to see Campbell coming to Columbia.
Mike Norvell - Memphis
Took over for Justin Fuente and has only continued the string of success that started back in 2014. Norvell will be in high demand from many programs across the country so this will also be an expensive venture. In addition, I’m a little hesitant on bringing Mr. Norvell to Columbia; no doubt his coaching bonafides are substantial but I’m always weary of a coach who inherited a program and culture and just kept it rolling rather than building it himself.
Todd Graham - formerly of Arizona State (2017)
This is not a sexy hire but certainly someone I would look into. He’s a bit of a mercenary but hear me out:
-Currently out of coaching but looking to get back in. At his last gig with Arizona State he was making $3.2 million/year, slightly more than what Barry Odom was making this year.
-Coached at Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, and Arizona State, all programs that operate at a peer-level deficit and can maximize the potential out of any program he’s at.
-One of the best assistant recruiters in the biz outside of Dabo Swinney. He does a tremendous job of acquiring young coaching talent and bringing them in cheap. His coaching tree includes Major Applewhite (former Houston head man), David Beatty (former Kansas head coach), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Chad Morris (former Arkansas HC), Mike Norvell (Memphis), Chip Long (Notre Dame OC), Billy Napier (Louisiana-Lafayette HC) and Jay Norvell (Nevada HC). That’s seven head coaches and a coordinator that worked with him as assistant. And, yes, they all moved on but his eye for coaching talent keeps solid, young assistants coming in to run his system effectively.
Graham is 54 and, while he doesn’t have a history of staying at one place for long, I have no doubt he could maximize the talent at hand on this roster to make some noise quickly over a few years.
Bill Clark - UAB
If you want a master program builder look no further than Bill Clark. Clark took over a terrible UAB team and made them bowl eligible immediately. The next year the Alabama board of regents killed the program effective immediately, but after plenty of public outrage, brought it back in in 2017. At that point they became bowl eligible again and will be bowling again this year. No one has done more with less than Clark and would be an excellent hire.
Willie Fritz - Tulane
Fritz is the ultimate underdog tactician; he’s utilized the option offense to success at every stop he’s made. At Tulane he’s modified it to make it more spread-y to keep up with his peers but regardless of style, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern, and Tulane have used sound tactics and planning to generate wins against superior programs. Utilizing the option, admittedly, caps your ability to recruit the talent needed for championships but I’d love to see what kind of hybrid offense he would run in the SEC.
Billy Napier - Louisiana-Lafayette
This would be my guy if I was Jim Sterk. He’s affordable: currently making $250k/year and his buyout (as far as my reserach shows) would just be the rest of his 4-year extension, so $1 million. He has excellent pedigree, being groomed at Clemson - under, admittedly, a beginning-of-his-tenure Dabo Swinney - and at Alabama under Nick Saban. He worked with the aforementioned Todd Graham at Arizona State and has turned the Ragin’ Cajuns until Sun Belt contenders immediately. He will also be in high demand, namely from Florida State and Mississippi State (if they pull the trigger on Joe Moorhead), so the bidding war might be costly, but he’s proven a lot in a short time and would be the top of my list to replace Odom.