Campus Corner

Rumor mill: Making sense of Missouri’s ongoing search for a football coach

California head coach Sonny Dykes reportedly met with Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades in Denver to discuss succeeding Gary Pinkel as the Tigers’ head coach.
California head coach Sonny Dykes reportedly met with Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades in Denver to discuss succeeding Gary Pinkel as the Tigers’ head coach. The Associated Press

Missouri entered the week with three candidates remaining to interview on its list for the vacant football coach position, a source told The Star.

The Tigers hope to have a candidate in place by the end of the week or early next week at the latest and there’s no shortage of speculation.

The longer it takes for a decision to be made, the more likely it would seem to mean Missouri has honed in on a candidate involved in this weekend’s conference championship games.

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If current defensive coordinator Barry Odom is the No. 1 choice or California coach Sonny Dykes, there’d be no hold up in striking a deal, but there’s incentive to keep things quiet if a coach wants to avoid a championship-week distraction.

Anyway, here’s a roundup of what we think we know about who Tigers athletic director Mack Rhoades is targeting to replace Gary Pinkel, the program’s career coaching victory leader:

Barry Odom, Missouri defensive coordinator

Odom, 39, padded his resume with a strong inaugural season as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator after three seasons in the same role at Memphis. He’s interviewed for the Missouri job, but also likely is a leading candidate at Memphis to replace Justin Fuente, who moved on to Virginia Tech.

Of course, that was before this nugget late Tuesday night:

It’s possible it’s a high-risk gambit by Memphis to force Odom into a decision or by Odom’s camp to achieve other concessions from Memphis. It’s also possible those Tigers simply got tired of waiting on Rhoades’ Tigers.

Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom discussed some of the Tigers' personnel Monday when speaking with the media after practice.

Stock watch: Down — If Odom was No. 1 on Missouri’s list, it seems like a deal would have been consummated already.

Sonny Dykes, California coach

Dykes, 46, emerged on the radar as a candidate Tuesday. He reportedly met with Rhoades in Denver. Dykes was a candidate at Houston in 2011 and 2014 when Tony Levine and Tom Herman were hired instead.

Dykes went 22-15 in three season at Louisiana Tech from 2010-12 and is now 13-23 in three seasons with the Golden Bears, who improved from one to five to seven wins this season. He also served as the Texas Tech co-offensive coordinator (2005-06) and Arizona offensive coordinator (2007-09) and spent two seasons at Kentucky.

He’s got some recruiting chops and a strong offensive background. The Golden Bears rank 23rd in scoring offense and ninth in total offense. Last year, Cal was 11th and 13th, respectively. Dykes’ final year at Louisiana Tech, his offense led the nation in both categories.

A report circulated Wednesday morning he would become Missouri’s coach, but it proved unfounded, The Star confirmed.

Stock watch: Down — Again, if he were the top target, a deal would probably be done by now, but Rhoades always has thought highly of Dykes.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina coach

If there’s an ace up Rhoades’ sleeve, perhaps is Fedora, 53, who is 32-18 and led the Tar Heels to a Coastal Division title in the ACC. No. 8 North Carolina, 11-1, plays No. 1 Clemson, 12-0, in the conference title game at 7 p.m. Saturday on Fox.

Fedora’s team lost a head-scratcher against South Carolina in the season-opener, but the Tar Heels have rattled off 11 straight wins since (though only one came against a ranked team).

He posted a 34-19 record in four seasons with Southern Mississippi before taking over at North Carolina in 2012. Fedora served as an offensive assistant at Baylor and Air Force during the 1990s, jumped to Middle Tennessee as offensive coordinator from 1999-2001 and spent three seasons at Florida as an offensive assistant before becoming Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator from 2005-07.

Stock watch: Up — After his name surfaced in initial speculation for the job, things went quiet. Perhaps, too quiet. He might be eager for a new challenge in the SEC and to be at a school where football is king. South Carolina also might have interest in Fedora.

Mike Bobo, Colorado State coach

Bobo, 41, is another of the candidates Rhoades reportedly met with in Denver. He’s a former Georgia quarterback and offensive coordinator, who’s gone 7-5 in his first season with the Rams.

He succeeded Jim McElwain, who led Florida to the SEC Championship Game in his debut season in Gainesville, Fla. Bobo helped groom Matt Stafford and Aaron Murray with the Bulldogs, but he also has a $5 million buyout in his contract.

Stock watch: Steady — The buyout is massive for a guy with one year of head coaching experience, but his prowess grooming quarterbacks and SEC ties are attractive.

Dino Babers, Bowling Green coach

It makes sense that there would be interest in Babers, 54, whose never had a losing season in four years as a head coach — two each at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green.

He’s an offensive whiz, which Missouri certainly can use with a background coaching running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks at a plethora of stops — including UNLV, Purdue, Arizona, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, UCLA and Baylor among others.

Rhoades was in Ohio to interview Campbell last weekend and might have also met with Babers, but interest from either side isn’t well-established and remains a bit murky.

Stock watch: Up — Much like Fedora, Babers was a hot name early and then things got very quiet. He’s reportedly in the mix for the Syracuse job, but Missouri might be a more attractive destination. His offense ranks fourth in scoring and third in total yards, which would be welcome for Tigers fans.

Troy Calhoun, Air Force coach

Calhoun, 49, might be one of the most underappreciated coaches in the country. The same Yahoo report that mentions Dykes and Bobo also indicates MU interviewed Calhoun in Denver. He runs a variation of the triple-option, which won’t excite a fan base starved for offense, but Calhoun has more offensive chops than that.

He served as the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator in 2006 and also was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Ohio and Wake Forest. Calhoun is 67-48 in nine seasons at the Air Force Academy despite restrictions on practice time and limitations on offseason player availability.

Stock watch: Steady — It’s unclear if how substantial the interest was or if he’d be a great fit at Missouri, but there’s a lot to like about Calhoun.

Matt Wells, Utah State coach

PowerMizzou reported that Wells interviewed with Rhoades in Denver.

Sports Illustrated said there’s been no contact.

Wells has a solid resume with stops at Navy, Tulsa, New Mexico, Louisville and Utah State, where he was an assistant for two years before being promoted.

He’s 25-15 with the Aggies, including 2-0 in bowl games, but it still might be a considerable jump for him to take over an SEC program with no experience at a Power 5 program.

Stock watch: Steady — If would be a surprise hire, considering his lack of major-program experience. But he’s a high-energy guy with a reputation as an up-and-comer. Still, why not Odom if you’re going this direction?

Mark Richt, former Georgia coach

Richt, 55, parted ways with Georgia after 15 seasons successful seasons, but the Bulldogs hadn’t won the SEC title since 2005 and hadn’t won the SEC East since 2012.

Richt, an Omaha native, reportedly won’t entertain returning to the SEC East and interviewed at Miami, Fla., on Tuesday. He’s not believed to be a serious candidate for Missouri.

Stock watch: Down — Richt reportedly will return to his alma mater, Miami, unless he goes to Virginia as the coach-to-be-named in the Greyson Lambert trade. Maybe he decides not to coach, depending on the ESPN source.

Tom Herman, Houston coach

Rhoades hired Herman, 40, at Houston before coming to Missouri. The former Ohio State offensive coordinator, who helped the Buckeyes win a national titles last season, is 11-1 in his first season as head coach and leads the Cougars against Temple in the American Athletic Conference title game this weekend.

Houston was very confident that Herman would remain with the Cougars, a source told The Star. The Cougars basically doubled his salary in an aggressive move to retain him.

Stock watch: Steady — He’s agreed in principle to stay at Houston, but apparently nothing is signed and that always leaves wiggle room. Perhaps unlikely, maybe even very unlikely, but …

Matt Rhule, Temple coach

Rhule, 40, met with Missouri officials Sunday in Philadelphia, where he’s preparing to face Herman and Houston in the American Athletic Conference title game. The interview apparently didn’t go well and the sides broke off talks.

Stock watch: Down — Maybe there’s some elaborate ruse at play here, but it sure doesn’t seem like that’s the case. We’re calling it on the Rhule rumors.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel spoke with reporters Saturday after the Tigers' 19-8 loss against Tennessee at Memorial Stadium. Pinkel said he felt like he let down his players in his final home game with the program.

Matt Campbell, Iowa State coach

Missouri reportedly interviewed Campbell, 36, on Saturday when he was still the head coach at Toledo, but he accepted the open job at Iowa State on Sunday, a strong indication the Tigers weren’t prepared to make an offer.

Stock watch: Off the board

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer

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