Missouri was in a sort of coaching nirvana for nearly a decade. The Tigers’ administration, from the mid-2000s until 2015, never really had to think twice about their football coaching situation.
Gary Pinkel was a great coach. And Gary Pinkel would never leave Mizzou.
It doesn’t get much better than that. A great coach who wants to stay at a mid-level power five job is hard to come by. When you find such a coach, you hold on as long as possible. That’s what Missouri did.
And now here we are.
Gary Pinkel was the exception, not the rule. It’s rare for coaches to stay at any institution for 15 years, much less such a highly respected coach staying at a program like Missouri for such an extended period of time.
Missouri’s next coach is unlikely to view the job at Mizzou the way Pinkel did. And that’s okay with me. I’m not afraid of Mizzou’s next football coach jumping ship for a better job in the next 3-5 years.
I think I lose a lot of Mizzou fans when I say that. But in a situation like this, such a scenario could ultimately prove to be a win-win scenario for both Missouri’s football program and whoever the next head coach proves to be.
Allow me to explain.
I view Mizzou as a top 30-35 job in the country. It has some history, it has a solid fan base, it has new facilities, it has a solid recruiting base, and it has a winnable division within the best conference in America.
That’s a lot to offer a coach. And it’s why Missouri shouldn’t settle for just anyone in this search. It’s also why certain candidates could look at Missouri as the perfect launching pad for their careers.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Imagine for a moment if Missouri hires Lane Kiffin, Bryan Harsin or Luke Fickell. I don’t know how realistic any of those candidates are, but bear with me for a moment. The odds are any of those three coaches would develop into prime candidates for a top 5-10 job in the country within the next five years.
If all goes well, that is. And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
If Kiffin, Harsin or Fickell are so overwhelmingly successful at Mizzou that they become candidates for a job they consider to be a cut above, that’s a good thing for the Tigers. It means MU likely had at least one double-digit win season. It means those coaches left the program in a better spot than they found it.
And it means Mizzou would be in a better place to hire its next coach than it is to hire a coach in 2019.
I’m not saying Mizzou should give zero consideration to how long a coach is willing to stay in Columbia. I’m simply suggesting it would be among the last things I consider. This isn’t a hire that should revolve around ties to the program. Willie Fritz shouldn’t be a prime candidate simply because he said Mizzou is his “dream job.”
For my money, that’s not what Jim Sterk should be looking for in this hire.
Sterk fired Barry Odom in part because Odom couldn’t elevate the program to the heights expected by both Mizzou’s administration and its fans. The next coach’s primary focus will to reach those heights.
Whoever that coach is, and whatever their future aspirations may include, the goal will remain the same: to win as many games as possible while they’re at Missouri. If that coach leaves Columbia in three years, so be it. They’ll be leaving the program in a better place than they found it.
In the meantime, Sterk is tasked with hiring the best possible candidate for 2020 and beyond.
As the coaching carousel turns.