As Missouri enters its second full week since the firing of Barry Odom, it's fair to wonder whether any Tiger football fan is satisfied.
Many lingering questions remain tough to answer until his replacement has been announced and we all find out together whether the next coach’s methods turn into better results.
Odom’s dismissal stemmed from what athletic director Jim Sterk sensed was a lack of momentum for the program going forward. A clean slate is what Sterk deemed necessary.
The timeline Sterk presented for the coaching search was one and a half to two weeks, meaning by this time next week, Sterk expects to have his new guy.
With Lane Kiffin officially announced as the new head coach at Mississippi on Saturday and multiple reports indicating that Barry Lunney Jr. will have his interim tag removed at Arkansas, that leaves just one Southeastern Conference job open, and it’s in Boone County.
Missouri appears to have lost one of its targets with Mike Norvell’s reported move to Florida State, but the opportunity to lead a program in the weaker division of the best conference in college football should be appealing for many coaches across the country.
Where does Sterk turn now?
Since last Saturday’s news conference when Sterk announced he hired a search firm, the same one Missouri used to hire men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, Sterk has tried to maintain confidentiality, saying he will not resurface publicly until the Tigers' next head coach is in place.
That bubble of secrecy partially burst Thursday when multiple sources indicated that the UM Board of Curators wasn't thrilled with Sterk’s initial list of candidates.
Part of that group was Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson, who has extensive offensive experience in 20-plus seasons as a Division I coach. Anderson has a 46-30 record as Red Wolves head coach and has made a bowl game in each of his six seasons in charge. However, Arkansas State has lost at least five games in five of his six seasons and has had a few similar low points under Anderson that derailed Odom’s tenure at Missouri. The Red Wolves lost their season finale to two-win South Alabama.
Aside from Anderson, the group included Army’s Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz and Tulane’s Willie Fritz — all coaches with offensive experience and current FBS head coaching positions, but none of them as big of a splash as some university leaders want for the 33rd head coach in school history.
The chatter of dissent from campus leadership makes it harder to believe, though not impossible, that one of those names will become the final choice.
Perhaps the search hasn’t picked up steam because the man Sterk wants has been leading his current team through conference championship weekend. Boise State’s Bryan Harsin coached the Broncos in the Mountain West Conference title game Saturday, while Louisiana-Lafayette’s Billy Napier led the Ragin' Cajuns in the Sun Belt Conference championship.
Sterk still has time to reel in a big name that would excite the fan base, but make no mistake: His legacy as Missouri AD will forever be connected to this hire.
If Sterk can't deliver a big catch on the coaching carousel, then why fire Odom in the first place? Even proponents of Odom's firing would be left wondering that very thing.
The new head coach will be given a lot of leeway. It’ll be his rules, his football staff, his way of running practices, his way of dealing with the media.
As much as the upheld recruiting and scholarship restrictions hurt, the new coach will have the chance to bring in players who fit his system, albeit with less of a safety net in numbers.
This next week or so will decide a lot: Will the search turn into a circus? Or is present uncertainty all smoke but no fire, and Sterk’s process works out?
Sterk decided a clean break from Odom was what’s needed, four years after Odom replaced Gary Pinkel.
Current Baylor head coach Matt Rhule was offered the Missouri job in 2015 but declined and eventually landed in Waco, Texas, where he led the Bears to the doorstep of the College Football Playoff this year while working under former MU athletic director Mack Rhoades.
Sterk can only hope his legacy-defining hire will elevate Missouri to similar heights.