It didn’t necessarily come quickly, or painlessly…In fact, there have been several moments in the last three years that would challenge even the most ardent Barry Odom supporter to call into question where all this was heading.
If the reality is that nothing worthwhile comes easy, then perhaps we are seeing the fruits of that philosophy finally beginning to blossom on the campus at the University of Missouri. The Tigers finished with 8 regular season wins for just the 12th time in its 128 year lineage and, for the second consecutive season, went undefeated in the month of November to help erase October blemishes.
“The things they’ve done in the month of November says a lot about what kind of program we have.” Coach Odom stated following Missouri’s 38-0 whipping of Arkansas on November 23. “It takes everybody on the same page to get it done and we have a lot of people that make it work.”
And “make it work” is precisely what Odom has been able to do, specifically in the past 13 months at Mizzou, turning an abysmal 5-13 start to his career into a reputable 19-18 mark that includes back-to-back-wins over Tennessee, three straight wins against rival Arkansas, a pounding of the current #9 team in the nation in Florida and a second straight bowl appearance.
So is now the time for Missouri to make a financial commitment to Odom and the stability that he’s provided to the program? His current contract makes him amongst the lowest paid coaches in the SEC and in power five in general. He quickly squashed rumors of mutual interest between he and Louisville earlier in the week and clearly, momentum is building for an extension and healthy pay raise.
“I think Missouri needs to commit to coach Odom.” SEC Network’s Matt Stinchcomb told me in a recent interview on The Elite Sports Podcast. “There are names that should come up for SEC coach of the year that haven’t. I believe Barry Odom would get my vote.”
You sure do not hear Odom’s name tied to many SEC COY discussions, likely because the Tigers dropped a couple of heartbreakers this season to Kentucky and South Carolina, two wins that would have catapulted Mizzou to a 10-win season and likely a top-10 national ranking. Despite those hiccups, Missouri has seemingly found its identity once again after a tumultuous 2016 season and brutal start to 2017. Mizzou became a balanced football team in 2018 with an inevitable NFL draft pick in Drew Lock at quarterback, who was almost complimentary to the teams’ three-headed backfield monster of Larry Roundtree (1,012 yards rushing), Damarea Crockett (709), and Tyler Badie (407).
While comparable programs like Illinois, Arkansas and Ole Miss continued to struggle in 2018, Mizzou was able to change their trajectory arrow in a big way and you will likely see this pay off for the Tigers on the recruiting trail with rumors of Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant’s interest in Missouri continuing to mount.
“For whatever reason across college football there are teams in November that fall off and fade away and there’s others that rise to the top. Odom said. “It’s not done overnight and it’s done in the recruiting process as well as the emphasis on playing tough and physical.”
For even the most jaded fan, the time is now to embrace this coach and the direction of this football program. The SEC arms race is a tough one for schools like Missouri that often have to out-perform their recruiting rankings and facilities. A spike in attendance could prove to be pivotal in 2019 with a team that returns a plethora of young talent (while also losing top contributors like Drew Lock and Terry Beckner) and will boast a shiny new south end zone project that should put a stamp on the positive direction the Missouri football programs is heading.