Missouri’s coaching search has officially gone nuclear.
If you missed the news Thursday, boy, you’re in for a doozy. According to multiple reports, Jim Sterk gave a finalized list of his top candidates to the University of Missouri Board of Curators.
The list reportedly included Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz and Army’s Jeff Monken.
The curators, one way or another, reportedly told Sterk those names aren’t good enough to warrant firing Odom, and Sterk needed to bring them a better list next time.
Given the reaction on social media, Mizzou fans seemed to agree with the curators’ assessment. That’s fine. I understand the frustration.
But it’s a bit misguided, in my opinion.
Sterk talked a big game in his press conference Saturday suggesting the Tigers would hire a coach who would bring sizzle back to the program. He noted in his press release after Odom’s firing that the program lost energy and momentum during the second half of the season. That note seemingly implied the next coach would add energy and momentum. How do you do that?
By hiring a big name, of course.
The casual Mizzou fan might recognize the last names Anderson, Holtz or Monken. Unfortunately, those fans are probably thinking of Kim or Mike Anderson, Lou Holtz and Todd Monken.
Those are... Not the fellows Sterk happened to recommend to the curators.
I understand the appeal of a big name. When the search opened, the fanbase was clamoring for the likes of Memphis’ Mike Norvell, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin or FAU’s Lane Kiffin. Those are names that provide some sizzle. They add to the program’s momentum.
But they weren’t the names Sterk brought back to the curators. And that brings us back to the reality of Mizzou’s situation.
Mizzou is a good job. Not a great job, but a good one. It probably ranks somewhere between the 25th and 35th best job in the country, depending on what a particular coach is looking for. There was a time when this kind of job could lure any group of five coach in the country. The money and the opportunity to climb the career ladder was simply too much to pass on.
That’s no longer the case. Group of five coaches are routinely making $2 million per year. Some power five coordinators are making the same. And the other power five coaches worth hiring away are waiting not for a any opportunity, but rather for the perfect opportunity.
All of these are factors in Mizzou’s search that contribute to a limited pool of realistic candidates.
That limited pool is how you end up with Monken, Anderson and Holtz on the top of the list.
That’s not an excuse. It’s an explanation.
I understand Mizzou fans’ frustrations with the options presented. I get wanting your program to hire a name brand as opposed to the guy who won 7-9 games at Arkansas State, or the coach who runs a triple option at Army. That’s perfectly fine.
But those name brands fail as often as they work out.
Maybe Lane Kiffin is a great candidate who will go on to work wonders at his next power five opportunity. Or maybe he hasn’t matured the way some want to believe and he’s going to fall on his face again.
It’s possible Jim McElwain learned from what went wrong at Florida and will be everything we thought he could be and then some in his second opportunity at a big gig. Or maybe he failed at Florida for a reason, and one year at Central Michigan didn’t solve all of those issues.
I would like to give other possibilities that would add that “name brand” splash at Missouri... But I honestly don’t know who the other realistic “name brand” candidates would be at this point.
Mizzou is in a tough spot. It’s clear Sterk wanted to hire one of the three candidates he recommended to the BoC. It appears his top choice was Blake Anderson.
I think that would have been a fine, yet underwhelming, choice. Anderson has been relatively successful at Arkansas State winning between seven and nine games every year. He’s seen within the industry as a quality head coach, and you won’t find many better human beings in college football.
It would have been a fine hire. It just wouldn’t have been a splash hire. Therein-lies the problem.
And this is why I’m here to tell you that it’s time to eat your vegetables.
Jim Sterk was hired to do a job. There was a time not so long ago (literally a week ago) the majority of Mizzou fans believed he was doing a good job as the Tigers’ athletic director. If you believed then that Sterk was a good AD, it’s time for you to instill your trust in him to do his job now.
You might not like the candidates Sterk recommends, but they emerged for a reason. Those are the coaches Sterk believes to be the best candidates to lead this program into the future. If they work, he’ll be rewarded handsomely as the man who got it right. If the next hire doesn’t work out, the next time around we’ll likely be talking about simultaneous AD and football coaching searches.
This is how it works. You hire people to do a job. Missouri hired Jim Sterk to be its athletic director. It’s time to let him do that job. He very well may fail miserably. And if he does, he won’t be asked to do the job much longer.
It’s time to trust. I know that’s not an easy thing to do with Mizzou Athletics, but it’s the only choice we have left.