Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Odom gives Missouri a solid foundation
Missouri head coach Barry Odom speaks during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 15, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
HOOVER, Ala. — When the SEC expanded in 2012 — adding Texas A&M and Missouri — it knew it was getting academic giants and good football.
It never expected to see the Tigers go on probation for academic fraud, but the 2019 Mizzou squad currently will sit out this postseason. This gives Little Rock an unofficial bowl game when the University of Arkansas hosts the Tigers in the season finale, although Missouri fans may stay away in droves.
When the Razorbacks closed the season against LSU every other year in War Memorial Stadium the game was more fun than the state fair.
LSU fans came, camped, deep fried turkeys for Thanksgiving and then watched football the next day.
Mizzou fans will be asked to drive to The Rock the day after Thanksgiving for the first time and with the probation cloud hanging over their heads. It is being appealed; no one knows what to expect.
Yesterday, at SEC Media Days, Missouri head coach Barry Odom talked about a good team chemistry and returning 13 starters from an 8-5 team.
He even talked a little about winning the recruiting battle for Clemson transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant, who Arkansas thought it was going get.
Since joining the SEC, Missouri is 52-37 overall, has won two Eastern Division titles and beaten the Razorbacks four times in five games.
The last two seasons the Tigers have made November a month to remember by going 8-0.
Odom said, jokingly, that every calendar in the athletic department was on the month of November.
Odom is going into his fourth season and is 3-0 against the Razorbacks.
He’s not a dynamic speaker, but he’s sincere and honest. He’s comfortable in front of the mass of media and deflects credit to a program built on unselfishness by the players and staff.
Odom was the defensive coordinator when a student protest and health issue led Gary Pinkel to resign as head coach, and there wasn’t a lot of early optimism about Odom.
He was definitely a Missouri man, having played middle linebacker for the Tigers.
Odom paid his dues, coaching in high school for three years before catching on as a graduate assistant for Pinkel with his alma mater.
He worked his way up to football operations director and then as an assistant coach in 2009.
He spent three years at Memphis before returning to Missouri for a year before being thrust into the role as head coach for the first time in his career.
His first season he went 4-8 but bounced back to 7-6 and 8-5.
Under his guidance, the Tigers are on solid ground, and despite the probation, is looking to make more progress this season with an offense that returns seven offensive players plus Bryant, a former starter at Clemson where he led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff in 2017.
There will be more about Bryant and his choosing Missouri, who was thought to be a long shot, in an article Wednesday by our man Bob Holt.
While the Tigers landed the biggest transfer in the country for this season, Odom was proud of the fact that not one of his Tigers entered the transfer portal and gave his players the credit for “the investment they had with each other, the brotherhood, the love, and the care for each other.”
He was even prouder of the fact that the football team has had its highest team GPA in back-to-back semesters in the history of the program, and that more than 50 players have a GPA above 3.0.
As for the NCAA and the appeal, he’s letting others worry about that so he can focus on this season.
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