With Missouri in a freefall, criticism of the program, its first-year coach Barry Odom and players, including sophomore quarterback Drew Lock, has spiked.
There’s even a fringe of Tigers fans already calling for Odom’s ouster, including a Go Fund Me page that aims to raise $2 million toward a contract buyout.
The page, which was created five games into the season on Oct. 2 in the wake of a 42-7 loss at LSU, hasn’t received any donations but it has been shared seven times.
Its creator, Jeff Eissman of Grover, Mo., cared enough to update the page after Saturday’s two-touchdown loss against Kentucky, and his ire speaks to the anger that’s become apparent among many Mizzou fans during a 2-6 nosedive to begin Odom’s tenure as head coach at his alma mater.
“With emails and things like that, I should come in and read some of those,” Odom said Monday during his weekly press conference. “I think we’d all get a pretty good kick out of that — or maybe not.”
Odom knew he’d face more scrutiny moving into the most visible role at Missouri’s flagship school when he succeeded Gary Pinkel last December.
Maintaining a thick skin, Odom understands, is a must.
“I understand that comes with it,” he said. “This job is very public, as it should be because there’s a lot of people that want Missouri football to be really good. I lead the charge on that, and I want us to be really good, too.”
Odom isn’t taking the Tigers’ struggles lightly and doesn’t think the job’s been tougher than expected — “I knew what I was up against,” he said — but he’s also frustrated by the mounting losses.
“I wish we had different results right now in our win-loss record, but … we’re going to keep on swinging and we’ll break through,” said Odom, who retook the reins of a struggling defense last week.
Publicly, Mizzou’s players haven’t lost faith.
“He'll never give up,” said senior linebacker Michael Scherer, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Middle Tennessee. “No matter what it takes, he’s going to fight through it and figure out a way to get this team to win.”
Scherer praised Odom as a motivator, adding “He wants guys around here to really want it as much as he does, which will happen and you’ll see it be a little different.”
Odom isn’t alone in navigating criticism’s choppy waters.
Lock, who is tied for first in the SEC with 18 touchdown passes and is sixth with a 134.9 quarterback rating, said he’s had people mumble something as they walk past or holler from passing cars as recently as last weekend.
“They never want to say it to your face, though, because that’s too scary to say it to my face … ,” Lock said. “It was actually right after the game — and I’m sure if they end up finding this, they’ll get a real big head about me talking about it — but it’s kind of just a regular thing.”
Lock does his best to avoid the rabbit hole of fan and media opinion — positive and negative — during the season.
He retweeted the Lee’s Summit football team’s account on Sept. 1, two days before Mizzou opened the season at West Virginia. It’s the last time he’s logged onto his social media account.
“It’s definitely different than going back to your high school and talking to your best buddies about the game rather than hearing criticism about what’s going on,” Lock said. “You definitely have to push it out because those guys are drunk during the games or might not have even been at the game — better yet, in my shoes on the field.”
Still, Odom and company strive to turn things around.
“I just want to get it right and, right now, I’m not getting it right,” Odom said.
But each week, including 4 p.m. Saturday against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., presents a new opportunity to snap a four-game skid overall, a seven-game skid on the road and a 10-game skid in conference.
“The SEC East is a juggle,” Lock said. “Anyone that comes out and wants it more than the other team is going to be able to win. … It’s all up for grabs.”