COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Missouri’s athletic director wouldn’t tip his hand about who might replace retiring football coach Gary Pinkel, but said Houston’s Tom Herman, Memphis’ Justin Fuente and Tigers defensive coordinator Barry Odom are quality candidates.
Mack Rhoades said Wednesday that the decision will come down to finding the right fit.
”I’m not into the hottest names out there,” Rhoades said. ”(Herman and Fuente) are certainly two of them, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically come here, be a great fit and win games here. I’m more about winning games, winning championships and finding the coach that can really do that over the long haul.”
Rhoades hired Herman last December at No. 13 Houston, which is 10-0. Memphis was 10-3 last year, won its first bowl game since 2005, and is 8-2 this year. Odom is in his first year as defensive coordinator at Missouri and spent three seasons in the same position at Memphis.
Odom also was on Pinkel’s staff in a variety of roles from 2003-11.
Pinkel will coach his final home game Saturday when Missouri (5-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) plays Tennessee (6-4, 3-3). The 63-year-old has been diagnosed with lymphoma and says he wants to get away from the grind of football.
The team is trying to focus on the next games, needing to get to six wins to be bowl eligible.
”I’m worried about these next two games,” wide receiver J’Mon Moore said. ”Whatever happens, happens, and we’ll move forward from there.”
Offensive coordinator Josh Henson said he told the players that, ”As a staff, we’re going to coach our tail off until the very end.”
Rhoades said he has discussed the future with players.
”The message was, `It’s going to be all right.” He plans to sit down individually with each member of the coaching staff, too.
”Certainly, we’re empathetic to what they’re going through,” Rhoades added. ”This isn’t an easy time for them.”
Pinkel abruptly announced Friday that he will retire at the end of this season, ending a tenure in which he revived a program that had largely languished for more than a decade.
It was a stunning turn during a most unusual week in Columbia, Missouri, that started with Pinkel’s players on strike because of racial tensions on campus. Pinkel stood by his players and kept his team unified through a couple of difficult days, but his decision to step down had nothing to do with the team’s boycott.
Pinkel is the winningest coach in school history with a 117-71 record over 15 seasons. After winning two straight SEC East titles, Missouri is out of contention this season.