Missouri Director of Athletics Jim Sterk wants to move swiftly to name a new head football coach.

He fired Barry Odom after four seasons at the Tigers’ helm early Saturday morning, citing momentum lost during the second half of the 2019 season as one of his main reasons. Sterk also did so less than 24 hours after Missouri’s regular season finale.

No one will hear from Sterk again publicly until MU has a new head football coach. Who is Sterk looking to bring to Columbia?

Based on past Power Five Conference hires and areas where the Tigers fell short in 2019, it’s hard to imagine MU bringing on board a coach without previous FBS head-coaching accolades, but a few interesting exceptions are made below.

Here are 15 names to keep an eye on as to the identity of the 33rd head football coach at the University of Missouri. The dozen-plus names are listed from most likely to least probable.

1. Mike Norvell, current Memphis head coach

Coaching resume: Norvell is 37-15 in four seasons guiding the Tigers, including an 11-1 mark in 2019 that has Memphis on the cusp of an American Athletic Conference title and a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance. Prior to Memphis, Norvell spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach at programs such as Arizona State and Pittsburgh.

Salary and buyout: Norvell has a $2.66 million per year salary and a buyout of $500,000.

Eric’s take: Norvell won’t be Memphis’ coach in 2020. He’s a ready-made Power Five head-coaching candidate. With nine of his 10 seasons spent in an offensive assistant role before coming to Memphis, he could spark Missouri’s offense to how it looked at the beginning of 2019 and at times with Drew Lock behind center. If I were Sterk, Norvell would be the first person I call about the vacancy that has a good shot of wanting to move to Missouri and coach in the Southeastern Conference. Only five Power Five vacancies exist as of Sunday, and with how trigger-happy Florida State and Arkansas were in firing second-year coaches Willie Taggart and Chad Morris respectively, Missouri or Boston College is the most stable Power Five job on the market.

Odds: 8-1

2. Bryan Harsin, current Boise State head coach

Coaching resume: Harsin is 70-21 overall as a head coach with six of his seven seasons coming in his current role leading the Broncos. Harsin’s first head coaching job was in 2013 at Arkansas State. Harsin is a Boise, Idaho native and is a former Boise State quarterback. He also spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater. Harsin was the primary play-caller and co-offensive coordinator at Texas in 2011 and 2012.

Salary and buyout: Harsin has a $1.75 million salary and a buyout of $500,000.

Eric’s take: Harsin is an offensive-minded coach that didn’t directly build Boise State into the Group of Five juggernaut it is today, but contributed during the 2000s and hasn’t messed with that mojo since he took the helm in 2014. It’d be an interesting fit, as Harsin clearly loves Boise, and it’d take some time to switch from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in the largest pond in college football. The Tigers could use some of that blue-turf energy though, and if Harsin is interested, he has a chance to be successful long term.

Odds: 10-1

3. Billy Napier, current Louisiana head coach

Coaching resume: Napier has an 17-9 record in his second season guiding the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before getting his first head coaching job, Napier spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Clemson and five seasons as an offensive assistant at Alabama. His other coaching stops include Arizona State and Colorado State.

Salary and buyout: Napier has a $875,000 salary and his exact buyout is unknown.

Eric’s take: Napier has no doubt some attractive schools in his pedigree. He’s coached in the SEC before and been successful, but he’s just two years into his first head coaching job. While Napier could be on the cusp of something fantastic, Odom’s future looked incredibly promising seven weeks ago, now Sterk is actively looking for his replacement. Napier is an offensive-minded coach that fits the bill for Missouri’s next head coach. He’s probably not as heavily sought as the two coaches with better odds, but still a solid choice.

Odds: 15-1

4. Jeff Monken, current Army head coach

Coaching resume: Monken is 40-35 leading the Black Knights since 2014 and had four successful seasons as the head coach at FCS-level Georgia Southern before heading to West Point. Army finished 2019 with a 5-7 record after attaining 29 wins from 2016-2018. Before Monken became a head coach, his assistant coaching stops included Georgia Tech and Navy.

Salary and buyout: Monken has a $930,000 salary and his exact buyout is unknown.

Eric’s take: Monken wouldn’t be the biggest name-generating hire that Missouri could make, but with his Midwest roots and offensive prowess, he makes a lot of sense. Coaching at a service academy that is an FBS independent will have a completely different flow than facing Florida and Georgia every season. Army didn’t mind challenging the big boys, however, and nearly took down Oklahoma in Norman in 2018. Monken’s Wing-T style offense would also fit well in the SEC.

Odds: 20-1

5. Jim Mora Jr., current ESPN college football analyst

Coaching resume: Mora was most recently the head coach of UCLA from 2012 to 2017, amassing a 46-30 record. Before that, Mora was 31-33 as an NFL head coach leading the Falcons and Seahawks for four seasons. Mora also has 20 seasons of experience as an assistant defensive coach in the NFL.

Salary and buyout: N/A

Eric’s take: This would be an out-of-the-box hire, but with Sterk’s West Coast connections, the trail isn’t hard to find to bring these two together. Mora isn’t that active on social media and could have an itch to get back into coaching after sitting a few years out. While Mora’s not known as an offensive-minded coach like every candidate with better odds above him, he has more experience than almost anyone else on this list.

Odds: 25-1

6. Lane Kiffin, current Florida Atlantic head coach

Coaching resume: Kiffin is 60-34 as a college head coach with stops at Tennessee and USC in addition to his current role at the helm of the Owls. Kiffin also has a 5-15 record as an NFL head coach with the Raiders. He also served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator for three seasons under Nick Saban.

Salary and buyout: Kiffin has a $1.432 million salary and a $1.5 million buyout.

Eric’s take: Kiffin slips a little on this list because of that buyout, but he has the experience and offensive tactics that would make him a fit at Missouri. One would think that Kiffin is itching to prove himself at a Power Five school again, last having done so in 2013. He makes sense for Sterk and would generate a ton of buzz if hired, but things haven’t exactly ended perfectly at any of his other big-name stops.

Odds: 35-1

7. Matt Campbell, current Iowa State head coach

Coaching resume: Campbell is in his fourth season coaching the Cyclones, compiling a 26-24 record in that time. He also spent four years as Toledo’s head coach with a 36-15 record. Campbell was an assistant coach at Bowling Green, Toledo and Division III-powerhouse Mount Union for eight combined seasons before becoming a head coach.

Salary and buyout: Campbell has a $3.6 million salary and a $6 million buyout.

Eric’s take: He’s the first current Power Five head coach on this list. Because of the success he’s built in Ames, he’d only leave for a job significantly better. Missouri would be a step up in terms of potential as well as the chance to coach in the SEC, but it isn’t as big of a move as he could make in the next few years. Campbell appears patient and will wait for that opportunity, as he’s been bowl eligible for the last three seasons. The Tigers would be lucky to have him if interested and wouldn’t mind breaking the bank for that huge buyout.

Odds: 40-1

8. Joe Brady, current passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach at LSU

Coaching resume: Before joining LSU’s staff this season, Brady spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints, Penn State and FCS-level William & Mary, his alma mater.

Salary and buyout: Brady has a $410,000 salary and his exact buyout is unknown.

Eric’s take: Potential is the best word to describe Brady. He’s never been a head coach before at any level, or been within striking distance of doing so. He’s 30 years old and largely credited with developing LSU’s offense that’s demolished every opposing defense this season and has put quarterback Joe Burrow as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s drawn comparisons to Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and Los Angeles Rams' Sean McVay because of his new-school offensive game plans. Brady will be a multi-millionaire as a head coach within the next few years. Does Sterk take that first shot at him?

Odds: 50-1

9. Luke Fickell, current Cincinnati head coach

Coaching resume: Fickell is in his third season guiding the Bearcats and has compiled a 31-19 record at the helm. Outside of two seasons at Akron, Fickell was on Ohio State’s staff consistently from 1999-2016. He spent a brief time as the Buckeyes head coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel resigned and before Urban Meyer took the helm.

Salary and buyout: Fickell has a $2.3 million salary and a $2.5 million buyout.

Eric’s take: Fickell has an impressive resume and has been around some of the best collegiate coaches and athletes of the last 20 years. He’s a defensive-minded coach and never held a coaching position outside the state of Ohio. He’s going to cost a lot to bring on board and would probably be worth it. But with other candidates out there, I’m not sure he’s going to give fans and Missouri as much bang for their buck as others already listed.

Odds: 65-1

10. Josh Heupel, current Central Florida coach

Coaching resume: Heupel is in his second season at UCF and has a 21-4 record as a head coach. Before moving to Orlando, Heupel was Missouri’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Heupel also has coaching stops at Oklahoma, his alma mater where he helped the Sooners to a national championship as their quarterback in 2001 and was named the AP Player of the Year, as well as Utah State and Arizona.

Salary and buyout: Heupel has a $2.3 million salary and a $10 million buyout.

Eric’s take: If Sterk were looking just at coaching resume, Heupel would be near the top of this list. His chances of returning to Columbia plummet with his buyout and the fact that Odom hired him to come to Missouri three years ago, and Sterk would probably stay away from that. There’s a good chance he’d be successful as a coach in the SEC, but it would take a bit of a course-correct for Missouri’s football program to bring him back to town.

Odds: 80-1

11. Steve Sarkisian, current offensive coordinator at Alabama

Coaching resume: Sarkisian has seven seasons of Power Five head coaching experience at USC and Washington. Sarkisian has 12 years of previous offensive assistant coaching experience at programs that include USC, Alabama, the Oakland Raiders and Atlanta Falcons.

Salary and buyout: Sarkisian has a $1.55 million salary and his exact buyout is unknown.

Eric’s take: Sarkisian is a guy with a lot of experience and would probably jump at the chance to be a head coach again. He works for Nick Saban, who has had coordinators make an exodus for other head coaching jobs as of late. Sarkisian wouldn’t be as expensive as others above him on this list, but due to his past public issues and a lengthy period away from being a head coach, I think he’d be a last-resort kind of option.

Odds: 100-1

12. Gus Malzahn, current head coach at Auburn

Coaching resume: Malzahn has a 62-30 record at Auburn since taking the helm in 2013 and a 71-33 overall record as a head coach combined with one season at Arkansas State. After a 15-year high school coaching career, Malzahn spent six seasons as an offensive assistant at Arkansas, Auburn and Tulsa.

Salary and buyout: Malzahn has a $6.8 million salary and a buyout of $27 million.

Eric’s take: If money weren’t an option, among coaches that aren’t 100 percent content in their current situations, Malzahn would be a phenomenal fit for Missouri. His odds probably go up if Arkansas also wasn't looking for a head coach and if the Tigers didn’t defeat Alabama yesterday. It’ll take an almost-irresponsible payout to Auburn to get him off their books (Malzahn has the fifth-highest single-coach buyout in the country), but can Sterk put a price on winning? I’ll admit it, we’re starting to get into bizarre territory here.

Odds: 125-1

13. Greg Lewis, wide receivers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs

Coaching resume: Lewis is in his third season on Andy Reid’s staff in Kansas City. Before that, Lewis had five one-year coaching stops as an offensive assistant in the NFL and Division I football. Lewis was a wide receiver at Illinois and played for eight seasons in the NFL.

Salary and buyout: Lewis has a $670,000 salary and his exact buyout is unknown.

Eric’s take: In case Sterk looks to the pro ranks to fill his head-coaching vacancy, Lewis is an offensive coach with Midwest connections. He’s not too far removed from his playing days and could help draw players from the St. Louis area to play for Missouri. Never being a head coach is a drawback for his chances, as is his less than a decade overall on the sidelines. He’d get Tiger fans excited though, no doubt.

Odds: 150-1

14. Ryan Walters, current defensive coordinator at Missouri

Coaching resume: Walters just finished his fifth season coaching at Missouri, all on the defensive side of the ball. He spent the last two seasons as the Tigers defensive coordinator. Before coming to Columbia, Walters had assistant coaching stops at programs such as Oklahoma, Memphis and Colorado.

Salary and buyout: Walters has a $800,000 salary and his exact buyout is unknown.

Eric’s take: There had to be an internal candidate on this list with Missouri’s athletic department most likely working from a deficit for the third straight season. Missouri’s defense was far from its biggest issues in 2019 and had performances that were stellar throughout the season. MU athletics and fellow staff members have raved about Walters’ skill and passion, but him being one of Odom’s right-hand men and never being a head coach before makes him not an ideal fit right now. Walters will be an FBS coach one day if he wants to be, though.

Odds: 250-1

15. Gary Pinkel, former head coach at Missouri from 2001-2015

Coaching resume: Before his 15 seasons leading Missouri from the sidelines, he spent 10 seasons at the helm of Toledo. Pinkel has a 191-110-3 record as a head coach.

Salary and buyout: N/A

Eric’s take: Pinkel hasn’t coached since retiring at the end of the 2015 season because of health issues. He’s a program legend and would create an unmatched immediate buzz statewide. He brought Odom back to Columbia in 2015 and still clearly has a great eye for the game. Sterk was asked if he’d be interested in a non-traditional candidate on Saturday, and he didn’t say no before joking with a reporter if he was interested. That probably applies more to Mora. Pinkel appears last on this last purely out of respect. He has to take a lot of credit for where Sterk currently has expectations set.

Odds: 1,000-1


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