Odom’s out: Sterk on coaching search, state of program and future

Sterk emphasized the importance of confidentiality as Missouri looks for new football coach.
Missouri players prepare to make their entrance on Faurot Field prior to Missouri's loss against Tennessee on Nov. 22. Photo by Andrew Moore

In a press conference Saturday afternoon following the firing of Missouri football coach Barry Odom, Director of Athletics of Jim Sterk emphasized confidentiality would be key in the university’s coaching search.

“A national search is underway and confidentiality around this time will be critical,” Sterk said. “Therefore, I won’t be accessible for public comments or comment on any search ‘til the next football coach is hired.”

While defensive line coach Brick Haley has been instated as Missouri’s interim coach, Sterk said multiple times that finding a permanent new man for the job — and the right man — is imperative.

“We need to try to act swiftly, be upfront with the potential candidates: ‘Here’s what we’re looking for, here’s what we want to do,’” Sterk said. “We’re going to have a lot of interest, so we’ll have to gauge who’s truly interested. I don’t want to talk to someone who is just trying to leverage for a better contract. I want someone that wants to be here that can lead this program in the right way.”

Sterk has previous experience hiring coaches, including Missouri men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, whom he hired within his first year at the helm of MU’s athletic department. The search firm involved with Martin’s hiring, Parker Executive Search, will also help with the hire of a new coach for Missouri football.

Even after a 6-6 ending to its 2019 season, Sterk seemed confident that Missouri’s program looks promising to potential hires and that there are already interested candidates. He cited having good players and “necessary resources” as two promising qualities.

As for the qualities Sterk is looking for in his hiree?

“Someone that brings a lot of energy and experience to the program,” he said. “A leader. Quality individual that has had success in leading a program or as a coordinator at a high level. Those are some of the qualities.”

Sterk indicated that Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and UM System President Mun Choi would both be active participants in the search for a new coach. He also said the pair was involved in the decision to fire Odom, a decision that came “within the last 24 hours.” Sterk avoided any direct statement on whether that decision came before or after the Tigers’ win against Arkansas yesterday afternoon.

A drop in the team’s momentum, which Sterk said he did not think would return under current leadership, was cited as one of the main reason for Odom’s dismissal. The cause for that shift in momentum is unknown to Sterk.

“As a program, we had tremendous momentum heading into 2019 with the opening with our south end zone project, along with other strategic investments into the program,” Sterk said. “We lost a great deal of energy over the last half [of] the season which caused great concern as we looked to the future.”

Odom was part of the Missouri program for 18 years, playing four years as a linebacker, spending six in an administrative capacity and then coaching for the last four.

“All of us really appreciate what he’s done and contributed to the university and the program,” Sterk said. “Mizzou is really thankful for his contributions. I know how hard he and his staff have worked this past season and the previous three to make our program better. Coach Odom has dedicated himself to developing our student athletes, on and off the field, for which we’re really grateful.”

Odom’s firing, which comes at a cost of almost $3 million, has a number of other possible repercussions including losing assistant coaches and committed recruits. With NCAA sanctions on the program’s budget, the financial costs could weigh heavily upon Missouri.

Despite that, Sterk seemed unconcerned with finances, stating that he and Tim Hickman, the athletic department’s chief financial officer, were already set to have a meeting with Cartwright and the university’s CFO concerning finances.

As for a timeline for the coaching hire, Sterk said he’s hopeful they’ll have an idea of who Missouri’s next coach will be within the next two weeks.

“I’m excited about the future,” he said. “I think we have a great opportunity moving forward.”

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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