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This is ridiculous

Did Jim Sterk overestimate his program when he made the move to fire Barry Odom?

Mississippi v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

This is nuts.

Today was all sorts of problematic for the Mizzou Football coaching search for a variety of reasons, but if for no other reason that something as ridiculous as this got out:

After Karraker spilled the beans, Dave Matter posted this report, basically confirming what the St. Louis radio host said:

As Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk continues to look for his next football coach, some members of the UM System Board of Curators aren’t thrilled with some of the choices being presented as options, multiple sources told the Post-Dispatch Thursday.

Sterk has shared with some board members that Mizzou is targeting Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson, Army’s Jeff Monken and Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz, a source confirmed. Board members did not outright reject any candidate but some are worried about the public fallout if Mizzou doesn’t consider other high-profile coaches instead of settling for lesser-known names, especially after firing Barry Odom, a Mizzou alum whose last three teams were 21-17 and each won enough games to be bowl eligible.

Just so we’re clear on everything: Jim Sterk fired Barry Odom for this?

I get the issues Odom had, and I even get the rationale for wanting to move on. But here’s what you’re moving on from:

  • Bowl eligibility in three out of four years, and three years in a row
  • An overall record of 25-25, with improvement each year (save a small setback in 2019)
  • Steady defensive improvement across the board
  • Improved recruiting classes year after year
  • Oh, and he was an alumni of the University

I think the want or need to hire an alumnus in any coaching situation is always overblown by fan bases, but firing those guys is another matter. Odom has given the bulk of his adult life to Missouri, and nobody wanted to succeed for the University more than he did. And Sterk fired him for going 6-6 in a year where injuries took their top defensive player and All-American candidate and moved Kelly Bryant from solid Drew Lock replacement to meager immobile game manager. That isn’t to mention the injuries elsewhere. Or the shadow of the NCAA hanging over the program for the entire season.

This isn’t to excuse the Tigers’ performance. They were awful after the Ole Miss game, and still pretty bad after the Florida loss. Limping to a close loss to Tennessee and beating an awful Arkansas team isn’t exactly closing strong.

But there was still reason to think he could be the guy. The growth process for a first time head coach was a tough one, but the setback this year gave Sterk a window to put his stamp on the struggling football program. In taking the opening, Sterk has officially taken ownership of the program and ensuing coaching search. And it’s been a mess.

Each day, the names attached to the job have gotten less and less inspiring to a fan base already searching for some light at the end of the tunnel. From Mike Norvell and Bryan Harsin to Skip Holtz. Then today a list of names from Blake Anderson, Jeff Monken, and Holtz were floated to a few curators and they were as inspired as the fan base.

Louisiana Tech v Florida Atlantic
Skip Holtz?
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

All of this and you go back to the report from Banner Society reporter Steven Godfrey, which said the relationship between Sterk and Odom deteriorated in the last few weeks, enough that the firing was inevitable.

So again, let’s get this straight: The Athletic Director let the relationship with his head football coach deteriorate to the point where a firing was inevitable... with NCAA sanctions still pending? Millions of dollars in revenue losses were coming towards the program, as well as loss of scholarships and recruiting restrictions — and the relationship between the head coach and the Athletic Director reached a point where there was no other option?

The way I look at it is this: Sterk shouldn’t have fired Barry Odom. Odom should have gotten another year to turn it around. Worst-case scenario is the program flatlines next year and you move on, having given the alumnus an extra year to figure it out. It reflects well upon the department for prospective coaches, and the sanctions are now behind you. The financial impact of the change has been lowered further and is non-existent in most cases. The best-case scenario is Odom figures it out, and you still have a low-cost coach who can win and really wants to be there.

Now you have added debt from the buyouts, sanctions hitting the program and a contract for a new coach which you will have to make room for those sanctions and what he has to deal with. More years and more money — all being paid to one of a group of coaches who aren’t going to put butts in the seats next year.

To top it off, you now have a fan base who, in the span of a week, have had all life sucked out of them.

From the outset Sterk could have and should have controlled this better. He can’t let ego —be it his or Odom’s — get in the way of what’s best for the financial well-being of the department. Mizzou’s margin of error and budget are too thin, and this is costing a lot of money. In trying to put his stamp on the program, he’s instead put a giant negative spotlight on himself and his handling of the firing, the fallout, and now the search.

It’s been barely a week and a half since the NCAA announced the sanctions would be upheld. In that time, the basketball team has endured their worst loss in forever and gone 0-3; the football team won a game, lost their head coach and have had three decommitments from their top four prospects; and now the A.D. seems to be disappointing more than just the fan base in his search for a new coach.

Missouri has rarely felt the high-highs of some college fan bases, but even that’s an extremely low week.