The rest of college football caught up with Missouri on Saturday, the last day of the 2019 regular season; the Tigers played their last game Friday. And subsequently, the coaching search season began to catch up with MU on Sunday, the first day of many programs' offseasons.
Several FBS schools fired their coaches Sunday, adding to the competition Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk will face in finding a replacement for Barry Odom, whom MU fired Saturday morning.
The three big coaching changes of the day were at Ole Miss, Boston College and South Florida, where Matt Luke, Steve Addazio and Charlie Strong were fired.
Missouri beat Ole Miss 38-27 on Oct. 12, MU’s homecoming Saturday and the team’s last win before the five-game losing streak that cost Odom his job. Ole Miss was already sliding at that point, putting Luke on the hot seat in his third season. He finished with a 15-21 record in his tenure there, in comparison with Odom’s 25-25 in four years at MU.
“In this league (the SEC), you can’t make mistakes,” Luke said after the Missouri game. “The missed opportunities make it tougher. All the little things add up.”
With Luke’s exit, there are now three SEC head coach openings this offseason; Ole Miss, Missouri and Arkansas. The Razorbacks fired second-year coach Chad Morris during the season.
Boston College is another Power 5 school (ACC), making it another high-profile job opening to match Missouri's. Successful coaches from smaller FBS schools will be on the lookout for the best opportunities in the coming weeks, so Boston College and particularly the rival SEC openings could limit Sterk's candidate options at MU. The inter-conference competition should also add to the sense of urgency in making a decision. Sterk said Saturday the school hopes to have its next coach two weeks from now if possible.
Historically, Ole Miss is a more successful football program than Missouri, so it might be a more appealing option for candidates. On the other hand, Ole Miss and Arkansas are both programs in shambles, unlike Missouri, and they both play in the more difficult SEC West division. Arkansas hasn’t won a conference game since 2017.
On the other hand, Luke and Morris both earned salaries that were higher than Odom made at Missouri, and Missouri’s athletic department is relying on a loan from the university to pay off missing bowl revenue following NCAA sanctions. Simply put, the financial situation might not be as ideal at Missouri. Morris had a $4 million salary at Arkansas, and Luke’s was $3.1 million. Odom’s was $3.05 million under a new contract, and his buyout lasts until 2024.
Some of the top options from non-Power 5 schools who will be reading that terrain include Boise State's Bryan Harsin, Memphis's Mike Norvell and Appalachian State's Eliah Drinkwitz.
Two more potential candidates to throw into the rumor mill, though unlikely, are Central Florida coach Josh Heupel and LSU passing offense coordinator Joe Brady. Both are offense-minded coaches, which might be a priority for a Missouri program seeking change after Odom, a former linebacker. Heupel was MU’s offensive coordinator from 2016-17 before taking the highly-sought head coaching job at UCF.
Brady is a dark-horse candidate who might receive interest from several schools seeking a head coach after he guided quarterback Joe Burrow and an elite offense for No. 1 LSU in his first year on the job.
“We’re going to fight to keep him here as much as we can, and we’ve had some preliminary conversations with him,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron told reporters Sunday, “but everything seems positive right now.”
Meanwhile, Missouri might be dealing with the recruiting fallout of Odom’s firing for the considerable future. One of Missouri’s top commitments, four-star receiver JJ Hester, announced Sunday that he won’t sign his national letter of intent with MU during the early December signing period as originally planned. In a tweet, Hester said he’s reopening his recruitment but will remain verbally committed to Missouri for now. The regular signing period (after December) is in February. Numerous teams reportedly contacted Hester on Sunday after his announcement.
Missouri also lost a commitment from four-star offensive lineman Jalen St. John, who referenced the coaching change in a tweet. He is the second player to fully decommit from MU in the last two days since Odom’s firing. Robert Wooten, a three-star defensive lineman from Texas, tweeted Saturday that he is re-opening his recruitment.
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.