Two seasons ago, Barry Odom delivered a passionate speech that helped shape the program for today.
Barry Odom was the guy Mizzou football needed.
His first year and a half, most Tiger fans wanted to run him out of town.
Missouri went 4-8 his first season and started 1-5 in Year 2. In the middle of that second season, he spoke following one of those many losses.
You remember it:
He said at the time he was built to lead the turnaround. This season he could deliver on the promise he made after that Auburn loss.
This is his best team. It’s time for Mizzou to go out there and win, like he said he was going to do in October 2017. And the Tigers have tasted some of that success.
Following the Auburn loss, Odom went 6-3, including a six-game winning streak that led Mizzou to a bowl game for the first time in three years.
In 2018, Missouri got back into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in three years as the Tigers were heading to the Liberty Bowl.
For that, he was awarded a new contract from the university last fall.
This offseason, Odom out-recruited many other coaches, including several in the SEC, to get one of college football’s top “free agents” in quarterback Kelly Bryant. That is going to help the team overcome the loss of second-round pick Drew Lock.
He also kept his team intact. Once the NCAA hit Mizzou football with several penalties for a mishap that happened many years ago, the Tigers could have lost several of their seniors, including Bryant. But nobody left.
Now, Missouri is on the cusp of a top-25 ranking, and should be ranked sometime in the first three weeks of the season. The Tigers are picked to place third in the SEC East, but some believe they could win 10 or more games this year, and possibly be a top-10 team and have an undefeated record heading to Georgia in November (a month Odom hasn’t lost in since his first year as head coach).
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Expectations are high. Thanks goes to the head coach.
But even then, there’s that wrench the NCAA has thrown in the works.
The Tigers football program is under NCAA sanctions that would prohibit it from playing in a bowl game this year. Mizzou has appealed the postseason ban, but that doesn’t change the mindset of the Tigers. Odom won’t let it.
In Vahe Gregorian’s column “Handling of potential bowl ban illuminates what makes Mizzou coach Barry Odom special”, which ran in the Kansas City Star this week, Gregorian takes us along with Odom as he enters his fourth season at the helm.
Part of the column addresses Odom’s thoughts about the ban, and the culture he has set that won’t allow his players to think about it.
"And the way Odom has handled it from the get-go offers a glimpse of the life lessons he’s passing on that illuminate how all of this flows together.This is first and foremost about controlling what you can control, the 12 games you’re promised even as the school continues its “Make It Right” campaign. …“You don’t get to choose the cards you’re dealt. You get to choose your attitude and your actions, your mindset, your grit, your toughness on how you handle those things that are handed to you. Earned or not earned. It’s going to be a really, really simple formula. We can’t do anything to control it.“OK, so what? Let’s go to work. I want our guys to be their best. And if we’re our best, then everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”"
If it works out the way Odom believes it can, the state of the football program would be turned around from what it was in early 2016.
The turnaround runs parallel to that of the university, perhaps. This year, freshman enrollment was up 16 percent, a big step forward from 2017, when the class was around 4,000 students. The school also saw its highest retention rate on record.
Things are looking up for the university, and things are looking up for the football program. That in itself is a turnaround.