University of Missouri leadership doesn’t plan to have a vacancy for long atop its football program.
Barry Odom was fired early Saturday morning after four seasons as head coach, initiating a national search to find his replacement, who will be the 33rd head football coach in school history.
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said Saturday that the athletic department will use Parker Executive Search Firm in the hunt for Odom’s replacement. That’s the same firm that helped him hire current MU men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.
“We won't have a huge search committee, if you will,” Sterk said. “I'll keep key individuals involved, but we're going to try to move quickly. Things have really changed as far as the football landscape with the early signing period, (Dec.) 18 through 20 with the transfer portal, all those things. So it's important that we move swiftly and hire the right person.
“Hopefully in the next week and a half, two weeks, we'll have a good idea who can be our next coach.”
Sterk said he’s been preparing for weeks — should Odom’s removal be his final conclusion — by brainstorming a few names who could be interested in moving to Columbia.
He said he thinks the head coaching job will have a lot of interest.
"We'll have to gauge who's truly interested," Sterk said. "I don't want to talk to somebody that's just trying to leverage it for a better contract. I want someone that wants to be here that can lead this program in the right way.”
Sterk didn’t mention that he’s looking for a specific type of candidate, whether that be someone who has already coached in the Southeastern Conference or in another Power Five Conference.
He didn’t specify if he’s looking for someone who has already been a head coach before, though previous experience is a great benefit, Sterk said.
“I've said before, the SEC is not for the faint of heart,” Sterk said. “You have to know what you're getting into, and so I think experience in the SEC or obviously competitiveness at a high level is important. Not an absolute, but it's pretty important to have it and understand what you're getting into in this league.”
Odom was an assistant coach for more than a dozen years before being hired as Missouri's head coach in December 2015.
While Odom had the second-most wins through four seasons of any MU football coach (25), Sterk’s decision to move on makes a loud and clear statement about what he expects out of the program.
“Missouri has the resources to be Top 25, consistently in the postseason, to compete for championships. Coach (Gary) Pinkel showed that a couple times. He went to the championship game in the SEC,” Sterk said. “I think with the investment that we've made recently in our South End Zone project, it puts us on a level as far as facilities that are second to none. So I'm excited about the future. I think we have a great opportunity moving forward. We have a lot of good players in our program that we want to build upon.”
Sterk said the new coach’s salary will match their experience. Odom was tied with Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead as the lowest-paid coaches in the SEC, even with the contract extension Odom received late last year. Odom made just more than $3 million per season.
Sterk views Missouri as a prime coaching opportunity as it's the only SEC school without another FBS program in its state.