Missouri announced Sunday that DeMontie Cross has been fired as the football team’s defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach.
The decision, which is effective immediately, came via press release from the Tigers’ athletic department shortly before 5:30 p.m.
“I am very appreciative of all that DeMontie has done for Mizzou, and am sorry that this did not work out, however, after careful evaluation, I believe it is important to make this change now,” second-year coach Barry Odom said in a statement.
Cross — a former Mizzou safety and Hazelwood East High graduate from St. Louis, who ranks second in program history with 415 tackles in three seasons (1994-96) — was hired in December 2015 after serving as co-defensive coordinator at TCU for one season.
Never miss a local story.
The Tigers’ defense struggled mightily in the 2017 season opener, coughing up 43 points against Football Championship Subdivision foe Missouri State.
Missouri seemingly improved Saturday in a 31-13 loss against South Carolina, a loss that featured more than a half-dozen special-teams gaffes and an anemic offense, but apparently not enough to save Cross’ job.
The Tigers’ defense currently ranks 114th among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, allowing 37 points per game.
MU, which ranks 82nd in rushing defense and 91st in passing defense, ranked 89th in scoring defense (31.5 points) and 118th in total defense (479.7 yards) last season.
Odom was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in 2015, presiding over a top-10 defense nationally, before he was promoted to replace Gary Pinkel after he retired with the most wins in program history.
Cross’ hiring was among Odom’s first moves, but an ill-fated attempt to transition to a read-and-react scheme last season caused MU’s defense to falter.
Midway through last season, Odom reclaimed control of the defense. He’d also given secondary coach Ryan Walters the title of co-defensive coordinator.
Cross, who also coached linebackers last season, saw his role further diminished during the offseason when Odom hired his younger brother, Brian Odom, as outside linebackers coach.
That left Cross as the inside linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, though in name only.
Now, he’s unemployed.
Cross previously coached outside linebackers at Missouri during 1998-99 after his graduation from the school. He also made stops at Sam Houston State, Iowa State, Wisconsin, and Kansas, along with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, during an 18-year coaching career.
He signed a three-year contract worth $600,000 per year in September 2016.
Per terms of his contract, Missouri owes him the balance of the contract unless and until he accepts another coaching position, at which time the university’s obligation will be mitigated by the difference of the new contract.
Walters remains co-defensive coordinator, but it’s unclear if he’ll be officially tabbed as interim defensive coordinator.