Nov. 7, 2016
COLUMBIA, Mo. --- Imagine if you will ...
It's 1:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 25, kickoff at Faurot Field. It's Black Friday.
This Black Friday is gray, cold,dreary and rainy, a bone-chilling 38 degrees.
Despite of our recent warm, wonderful days --- thank you again for Global Warming, Al, we're really enjoying it! --- cold, rainy and 38 degrees is not unheard of in late November in Central Missouri.
It's Missouri vs. Arkansas. The Razorbacks are trying to improve their bowl resume', the Tigers are trying to improve to 3-9.
Yes, the Tigers are 2-9 as this game kicks off. Not too hard to imagine that.
The students are away for Thanksgiving break, not many come back to campus to see if Mizzou can finish 3-9. Can't blame them.
Other fans are away at the mall, or maybe lounging on their warm, dry couches in their warm, dry homes in front of their warm, cozy fireplaces watching the game. Not a good day to be outside, especially not to see the home team lose.
It's not even a fit day to tailgate and see your friends one, final time, to share a bratwurst, a cold beverage and a laugh. Try as they might to make this a rivalry game, it's not. Arkansas is no more of a rival than Florida or Delaware State. Arkansas is not Kansas and never will be.
The stands are full of empty seats at kickoff. In the second half, they announce the crowd --- 37,694 ---- but it looks smaller than that. A lot smaller. Near the end of the game, a 38-13 Arkansas win, folks are already starting to clean up the stadium ... and they outnumber the actual number of remaining fans in the stands.
The Tigers finish the season with eight straight losses and a horribly disappointing 2-10 season in the first year under head coach Barry Odom. It's the worst season since for Mizzou since the days of Bob Stull 27 years ago.
The day seems even more gray and dreary than it was at 1:30 p.m.
Can you imagine? Sadly, it's not that hard. The line between our imagination and our sports reality is very, very thin.
Other than punting, this team isn't good at anything --- and this is a program that's less than 24 months removed from winning its second straight SEC East championship.
But this problem runs a lot deeper than having a bad football team. Now, there's already talk of firing Odom.
Hold on, folks. It would NOT be fair to fire Odom after one season, it just wouldn't. That wouldn't be fair to any coach at any school --- not just for having one really, bad season,anyway.
It would be the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.
Odom is a favorite son of old Mizzou. His players love him. He bleeds Black and Gold. He is a truly nice guy who has done everything in his power to make it right, to make it work, to make this season a success --- and that process started on the day he was hired, Dec. 3 of last year.
Instead, it's all gone terribly wrong.
If you want scapegoats in all of this, it's not Odom. It's some imbeciles who yelled and did some awful things, then one guy who went hungry for one week --- although some believe he never went hungry --- and an administration that allowed the bigger issues to go unaddressed. The problem festered. If they'd only held some closed meetings with the protesters, along with some public sensitivity forums for everyone ... but they didn't.
Instead, the infrastructure of the entire university system collapsed. The head football coach retiring was only a minor victim in this implosion, compared to the resignations of the university's chancellor and president.
Perception of the university became a reality, bleeding down to the football team and starting with recruiting. That's a fight you just can't win.
It's time to change that perception and indeed, the reality. How? Certainly, it will take something drastic.
Les Miles' reality is that he was fired after four games this season by LSU. Other than guys named Saban, Meyer or Harbaugh, Miles would be in that next layer of the coaching royalty.
At the very least, the guy can recruit talent --- LSU has the fourth-most players on NFL rosters this season. But he wins, too, he just doesn't win against Alabama ... but who does?
In 11-plus years at LSU, Miles won a national championship and his record was 114-34 --- but only 2-2 this year. And the team "struggled" in recent years, at least by LSU standards.
Miles, 62, is not done coaching. He wants to coach next year and he's already assembling his staff. Some team will hire him. And Miles would love nothing better than to do it in the SEC.
That some team should be Missouri. Swallow the money guaranteed to the current coaching staff, open up the checkbook for Miles --- because he won't come cheap --- and move on. Do the wrong thing.
It wouldn't be fair, it wouldn't be right. Odom certainly doesn't deserve this. Sadly, bad things happen to good people all the time.
It's the wrong thing to do at the wrong time. But in this case --- when drastic times call for drastic measures --- two wrongs can make it right.
As badly as you'd feel for Barry Odom, what does the thought of having Les Miles on the sideline for next year's season opener do for your perception of this football program?
That's where Mizzou is.
It's time to cleanse and purge the entire program of the lingering stench --- and unfair perception --- from last year. Innocent victims will be involved. But this may be the only way to do it, because it's not going to get any better the way it is.
It might be the only thing to save this program from a lot more gray, dreary days in the foreseeable future.
Is it time for Mizzou to fire Odom
and pursue ex-LSU coach Miles?
For questions, comments or story ideas, contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.