First-year Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk didn’t hire Barry Odom, but he believes in his second-year football coach.
“I’ve been impressed with him and just how he handled the kids, the players, both with wins and how they handled losses,” Sterk said.
While Odom’s debut season — the Tigers missed out on a bowl game after starting 2-7 before closing the campaign with two wins in the final three games — fell short of expectations, Sterk wasn’t dismayed by the growing pains.
“I knew going into that season, you’ve got a new head coach, new defensive coordinator, new offensive coordinator, and you’re in the SEC — that’s a tough deal,” Sterk said. “For us to really have him get settled in, and it takes a while for the team when you give them a new offense and defense, it takes a while.”
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Odom was hired in December 2015 by former Tigers athletic director Mack Rhoades, who left seven months later to become Baylor’s athletic director.
Sterk replaced Rhoades last August after 16 years at Washington State and San Diego State and anticipates Odom’s second season will produce more wins.
“I think we’ll take a big jump,” Sterk said. “I think the players are ready to take a big jump and they’re going to compete for a title. That’s what their goal is, so I’m excited about that.”
Last season, Odom was lowest-paid football coach among the SEC’s 13 public universities at $2.35 million per year, but Sterk isn’t opposed to re-examining that contract.
“We’ve got work to do on the football coaching salaries and all, but I think they’re going to have success and that will allow us to be able to do that,” Sterk said.
New men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin signed a seven-year, $21 million deal with the Tigers last month, making him the highest-paid Tigers coach with a $3 million annual salary.
“I addressed it with all our head coaches that our goal is to at least be competitive in the SEC with salaries, to be at least in the mid-range, but we have to build our revenues back up,” Sterk said. “We’ve fallen off in football and basketball, so we need to get that momentum back and selling tickets and support and all. I can’t do it right now, but that’s my goal.”
Sterk’s enthusiastic support and tireless fundraising toward building a new football facility in the south end zone at Memorial Stadium demonstrate his commitment to Odom’s program.
The project remains on schedule for final approval this summer.
“It’s got great momentum and I think (the University of Missouri System Board of Curators) are going to discuss it in June or July,” Sterk said. “I don’t know whether they’re going to approve it in June or July, but it’s on track.”
Sterk and his staff have weekly meetings with the design team, the Kansas City-based architecture firm Populous, and recently hired a general contractor.
Initially, plans called for retrofitting the new football-specific facility, but those plans were scrapped last December in favor of demolishing the south bowl and building a new structure.
That decision bumped up the price tag for facility — which is expected to include coaches’ offices, meeting rooms, locker rooms, an equipment room, a weight room, a cafeteria, a team lounge, and a training room — from $75 million to nearly $100 million.
Demolition of the south bowl isn’t expected to take place until early 2018 with a construction timeline a little more than a year, putting the facility on track to open in summer 2019.
Mizzou has raised “close to” $50 million for the project in private donations, Sterk said, but hopes to raise at least another $8 million, which would reduce the amount of bonding required against future ticket revenue from the new suites and field-level club included in the project.