COLOMBIA, Mo. >> Missouri fired football coach Barry Odom today, a person with direct knowledge of the decision said.
The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.
Odom is a beloved former player and longtime assistant coach who helped stabilize the program but failed to win enough games. Missouri went 6-6 this season and Odom was 25-25 in four years.
The Tigers were expected to contend for the top of the SEC East this season with the arrival of Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant at quarterback. But the season began with a loss to Wyoming and never really got on track, and the Tigers were forced to beat Arkansas to become bowl-eligible.
Not that winning six games mattered.
This past week, the school lost its appeal of NCAA penalties stemming from a rogue tutor. That left in place a postseason ban along with recruiting and scholarship restrictions. The penalties were levied against the football, baseball and softball programs.
It remains to be seen what kind of candidates Missouri can lure to Colombia given its significant disadvantages. Along with the NCAA sanctions, the program made Odom one of the lowest-paid coaches in the SEC, resides outside the league’s natural footprint, and will forever battle SEC East behemoths Georgia and Florida — along with the powers in the SEC West — for both recruits and wins.
Topping the list could be Josh Heupel, who coached at Oklahoma and Missouri before taking over at Central Florida. Memphis coach Mike Norvell would be an intriguing choice, as would Louisiana’s Billy Napier, while Greg Schiano is still available after a deal fell through to return to Rutgers.
Odom was hired in December 2015 following the retirement of longtime Gary Pinkel because of health reasons. He had played for the Tigers in the late 1990s, coached prep football in Missouri and began his college coaching career as a student assistant under Pinkel during the 2003 season.
Odom spent several years in football operations before returning to the sideline. He coached the Tigers’ safeties and then joined Justin Fuentes’ staff at Memphis as the defensive coordinator. He came back to Missouri as Pinkel’s defensive coordinator during the 2015 season.
It was that year race-related protests erupted across the Missouri campus.
The movement primarily was led by a student group, but football players announced they would not practice or play until school president Timothy Wolfe resigned — a move that potentially could cost the school $1 million in forfeited game fines. Wolfe ultimately announced his resignation, and the football team returned to the practice field to finish out Pinkel’s final season.
Odom stepped into the still-volatile situation in December, at 38 becoming the second-youngest coach in school history. Missouri won four games his first season but improved by three wins in Year 2, earning a trip to the Texas Bowl. The Tigers went 8-5 last season with a loss in the Liberty Bowl, but had shown enough progress to earn Odom a contract extension in December 2018.
Missouri brought in several high-profile transfers this season, including Bryant and Arkansas wide receiver Jonathan Nance. But after the Tigers were picked to finish third behind Georgia and Florida in the SEC East, they absorbed a stunning 37-31 loss to the Cowboys to open the season.
The Tigers rebounded to win five straight games, beating South Carolina and Ole Miss to start 2-0 in conference play. But their offense suddenly unspooled in a stunning streak of utility: Missouri lost 21-14 at Vanderbilt, 29-7 at Kentucky, 27-0 at Georgia and 23-6 to Florida.
Their loss to lowly Tennessee last week ran the Tigers’ losing streak to five straight games.
“I think the foundation is set for us to go out in the future — in the near future — and win a lot of games,” Tigers wide receiver Barrett Banister said in supporting Odom. “No one here has written this script this way this season … but he is the man to get this thing going.”