Justified or not justified?

Barry Odom fired after going 6-6. Was it the right decision?

Jackson Meyer, Reporter

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It’s safe to say that the Barry Odom tenure at Missouri was a rocky rollercoaster. Odom has been with the football program to some extent for 20 years, whether a defensive coordinator or head coach and was even a former player for the Tigers. Odom was hired in 2015 after head coach Gary Pinkel had resigned, but after going 25-25 in his first four seasons, athletic director Jim Sterk decided it was time to pull Odom off of the sidelines. The fanbase is completely split on the decision. On Twitter,  it’s a mass argument among Mizzou fans whether it was too early to move on from Odom, or if it was the correct move. I believe that it was the right move. If you’re not sure what to think about the decision, here are some reasons why Jim Sterk made the right call.

The obvious first thing that you would have to do is take into account Odom’s overall body of work. In his four seasons, Odom achieved a career record of 25-25, which means he is at the point of average. Fans seemed to be pleased by this though. Missouri has never been a powerhouse over the last few decades so Missouri is used to the occasional “average” season. But if Odom was able to achieve a record as such and have some success, why was he sent out of the door so quickly? For you to figure out that reason, you have to dig deeper than just his overall record.

First, you have to look at the teams that Missouri is beating during Odom’s time as head coach. Throughout Odom’s four years, Missouri had enough talent on the team to play hard against anyone. Odom was gifted with quarterback Drew Lock, a quarterback that would later play in the National Football League (NFL).   Georgia and Florida are the only teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) East that Mizzou would have trouble beating, considering they are both top 25 teams. So how did Mizzou stack up against teams that had more wins than losses? In Barry Odom’s four years, he was only able to beat four teams with winning records. That means that four of his 25 wins only came against winning teams. That also means that 21 of his wins were against mediocre opponents.

Another problem with Odom’s teams is that they frequently lost the games that they were supposed to win. Upsets are bound to happen in college football; however, Odom’s teams got upset way more often than they should have. Games that were supposed to be easy weren’t, and the Tigers would crumble under pressure and lose. So what are some examples of that? Trust me there’s a lot of them. In Odom’s first season the Tigers hosted Middle Tennessee,  a low-level college program. Middle Tennessee is not a Power 5 program which means they are not affiliated with the Power 5 conferences, including the Pac 12, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Going into this game, nobody in their right mind believed Missouri would lose this game. Middle Tennessee was 8-5 that season so they were not a horrible team, but in no means should they be able to beat Missouri. Unfortunately, predictions were wrong after Missouri lost 51-45. That was the first really bad loss of his career. Some other notable losses were losing to Kentucky during the 2016  season at home 35-21, in 2017 the Tigers lost to an average Purdue team at home 35-3 as they did not pass midfield all game. That same season, they got mauled by South Carolina 31-13. In that game, Missouri took an early 10-0 lead but completely collapsed as South Carolina scored 31 unanswered points. Most specifically, the Tigers lost to a one-win Vanderbilt team in Nashville 21-14 this season. 

A smaller stat we can talk about is that under Odom, the Tigers went 0-4 against Kentucky. Kentucky has never been a good football team and has been at the bottom of the SEC East for the past decade. But still, Odom was never able to win against them. The sad part is that Kentucky should be a team that Missouri can consistently beat. In Odom’s third season the Tigers nearly won against a ranked Kentucky team at home but lost the game after a horrible pass interference. After that play, Kentucky threw for a touchdown at 0:00 on the clock. 

Fans’ main argument for keeping Odom is that they say that Sterk did not give him enough time. They bring up the fact that Odom actually had more success than Pinkel did in his first four seasons. But the situations are much different. Gary Pinkel began coaching at Mizzou in 2001 and was trying to rebuild a team that had just had one of their worst decades of football. Nonetheless, Pinkel showed flashes in his first four seasons. In his first season, Pinkel went 4-7 but he also was able to win on the road. He beat a good Oklahoma State team on the road 41-38 and he beat hated rival Kansas on the road as well, 38-34. In 2002 the team improved to 5-7 and were able to beat rival Illinois and Kansas. Pinkel had some bad losses, much like Odom did, but he didn’t have much talent on those teams. In 2003 Missouri was 8-5. That season Missouri knocked off tenth-ranked Nebraska 41-24 which was the first win over Nebraska in nearly a decade.

Pinkel had many impressive wins with not much talent. So what’s the difference with Odom? Well, Odom was gifted lots of talent and a future  NFL quarterback. He has gifted a good defense as well, along with a good offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Odom won some road games as well but they were always late in the season against bad opponents. He would frequently beat Arkansas and Tennessee, but other than that he never really performed on the road. 

Lastly, Odom made the same mistakes each year. His teams were at the top of the conference in penalties every season, and his teams always collapsed out of the middle of nowhere. In three out of the four seasons that Odom coached, Missouri had a five 5 game losing streak. That means that once Missouri lost a game, they would lose all confidence and give up.  

Mizzou now has state of the art facilities that can attract top recruits and help develop their games. Now to top it all off, Missouri needs a new guy at the helm that can take the team to the next level.