There are at least a dozen Power 5 college football programs that would gladly take a 25-25 record and two bowl appearances over the past four seasons. Yet, this was not good enough for Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk and many of the Tiger’s delusional fans.
Sterk fired head coach Barry Odom after last Friday’s victory over pitiful Arkansas and told the world he is searching for a proven winner to lift the Tigers to SEC East championship level.
I doubt Sterk will interview a black head coach, but there are several qualified candidates who might accept the challenge. Here are four.
Herm Edwards – The former NFL coach got skeptical reactions nationwide when he signed on to guide the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Edwards, who resided in the Kansas City area during his television analyst days before he returned to coaching, immediately transformed a losing program into a winner.
The Sun Devils beat a pair of Top 25 teams at home in 2018, Michigan State and Utah, respectively. His team also defeated USC, UCLA and Arizona, making Edwards the only first-year coach in program history to defeat all three teams and make a bowl game. His team lost to No. 21 Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl – but Edwards’ leading receiver did not play to avoid injury and prepare for the 2019 NFL draft.
This year, the Sun Devils upset Michigan State on the road, beat archrival Arizona 24-20 and finished third in the Pac 12 South with an overall 7-5 record. Edwards’ squad is headed to the Holiday Bowl, Cheez-It Bowl or Sun Bowl.
Edwards might not be at Missouri long, but his time here could help build a foundation that could be built upon for decades.
Dino Babers – When Babers took over Syracuse in 2015, the Orangemen were a joke. Two years later, his squad narrowly lost to eventual national champion contender Clemson. Last year, Syracuse closed with a 10-3 record and won the Camping World Bowl 34-18 over West Virginia.
High hopes entering the 2019 season were dashed by the middle of the season and Syracuse ended with a disappointing 5-7 record. But Babers’ team shocked No. 22 Wake Forest 39-30 in the final game of the season. All signs point to him returning to Syracuse. He fired his defensive coordinator late in the season and has helped cobble together a recruiting class ranked near 50th in the nation.
Would he come to Missouri? I think so. Would he consistently win? The SEC is obviously more competitive than the ACC, but Babers took over a bigger disaster at Syracuse than Missouri in its current state. It would not be far-fetched for him to take Missouri back to a level of national prominence.
Tony Elliott – The winner of the 2017 Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, Elliott serves as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach for defending national champion Clemson.
While head coach Dabo Swinny deservedly should be recognized for making Clemson a perennial threat to win the national championship, the Tigers’ streak of nine straight 10-win seasons began when Elliott became a full-time assistant coach. This run includes five ACC titles and a national championship.
In 2018, Clemson rushed for a record 3,723 yards. breaking the record of 3,469 that had stood since 1978. Elliott’s backs also topped school records in yards per carry (6.55) and rushing touchdowns (49).
Recruiting is everything, and if you look at Clemson’s roster there are many players that do not hail from the South. He’s a great recruiter, something Mizzou desperately needs.
Randy Shannon – As defensive coordinator at the University of Central Florida, Shannon is a key piece in this school’s surge to becoming one of the nation’s best non-Power 5 football programs.
Shannon’s defense did not surrender more than 35 points in a game this season and was fifth nationally with a stingy third-down conversion rate of just 28 percent. It was first the American Athletic Conference in yards per play allowed (4.6 yards) and second in total defense by allowing just 353.5 yards per game.
He took over a scandal-plagued Miami Hurricanes program in 2007 and went 28-22 in his four seasons there. That might not overly impressive, but during his tenure his team placed third in FBS in academic progress rating and there was only one arrest. Before moving to UCF, he was Florida’s defensive coordinator and served as interim head coach for the Gators after Jim McElwain resigned.
UCF head coach Josh Heupel, Mizzou’s former offensive coordinator, is rumored to be a candidate for the Tigers job. Should he get it, look for Shannon to accompany him to Columbia – if Shannon does not get the Knights head coaching position.
Drop the protest excuses
There has been a boatload of irresponsible talk cluttering the airwaves on the SEC Network and local media that needs to be addressed.
First, the player protest and campus unrest at Missouri happened more than four years ago in October 2015. Most of Missouri’s players and coaches that were there in 2015 are now long gone. The chancellor of the system, the president of the university, the athletic director and head coach have all changed, as well.
The events of 2015 are no longer an excuse for lack of recruiting and mediocre seasons.
Also, the idea that Missouri’s campus is still strife with controversy and a falling number of students is ridiculous. Enrollment at the University of Missouri, where my daughter Blaine is a member of the freshman class and majoring in engineering, is up 15 percent compared to 2018-19 – and enrollment had its biggest increase in more than a decade that year.
Missouri football is stagnant because the school chose to depart the Big 12 and join the SEC. It created a recruiting nightmare.
The athletic department also failed to gauge fan interest. Most Tigers’ fans would rather see Missouri playing home games against KU, Oklahoma, Iowa State and the other Big 12 schools than Deep South powers including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, etc.
Fans from St. Louis and Kansas City don’t help sell out the stadium because they don’t care to make the drive to Columbia to see teams they truthfully don’t care about – regardless if they are nationally ranked.
Missouri would have larger crowds and sell out more games if it won more games, certainly. But the price of moving to the SEC is a real one that still haunts the program.
Tip cap for Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was reportedly on the hot seat after his team failed to make the playoffs in 2018. Antonio Brown lost his mind – and still hasn’t found it. Le’Veon Bell refused to play and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked closer to retirement than he did to the Pro Bowl.
The 2019 season was just underway when Roethlisberger was lost for the season with an elbow injury. It was over for Tomlin if you listened to many NFL pundits and Steelers fans.
Once again, they underestimated Tomlin’s ability as a head coach. He’s one of the best and he is proving it again this season.
“Tomlin’s Steelers, who are down to Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges at quarterback, are 7-5, have won six of their last seven, and are holding steady in the sixth seed of the AFC playoff bracket,” USA TODAY’s Lorenzo Reyes writes.
“Considering that this is a Pittsburgh team that lost Antonio Brown and has dealt with other injuries, Tomlin has put himself firmly in the conversation for coach of the year.”
Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher said this has been Tomlin’s “best coaching year to date because he's done more with less.”
“He's had to make the (necessary) moves since Ben Roethlisberger got hurt in the first week. He's adapted and adjusted and he's got this team hunting for the playoffs. I give a lot of credit to that man,” Cowher, an NBC analyst and Super Bowl winner with the Steelers, added.
The Dallas Cowboys will be looking for a head coach after the season. Tomlin won’t be leaving Pittsburgh, but owner/GM Jerry Jones would be a fool to not try and entice him to leave.
More of Flores
When hired to coach the Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores knew it was a long road to respectability.
Then, his front office traded away several of his best players, including receiver Jarvis Landry, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Aqib Talib.
But a team picked by many to go winless is 3-9 following its 37-31 win over Philadelphia on Sunday and Flores is winning praise.
“I'm telling you that's a good football team. Record does not indicate anything about them at all. They're well coached. It's a disciplined group,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
“They play hard. You see that on film. Again, their record doesn't show that, these guys battle for 60 minutes.”
Jim Nagy, executive director of the college postseason Senior Bowl said on Twitter, “What the Dolphins are doing under Brian Flores is NOT a surprise to anyone that has played, scouted, or coached with him.”
“True leader. While he realistically won’t win Coach-of-the-Year, getting this stripped-down team to 3 wins should earn him votes.”
The Reid Roundup
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week that the MLS ownership group are requesting state tax credits and $15 million to help assist with the construction of the expansion team’s stadium in west St. Louis. Along with the $15 million in tax credits, the Missouri Development Finance Board will receive a second application for another $15 million next month … Bradley Beal scored just 23 points, yet his Washington Wizards scored 125 – and they still lost by 25 points to the L.A. Clippers on Sunday … Former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock got his first start Sunday against the L.A. Chargers and led the Denver Broncos to a 23-20 victory. Lock completed 18-of-28 passes for 134 yards with two touchdowns and an interception … British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton capped his championship season by winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Sunday, his 11th win of the year.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.