SEC Media Days: Leave Mizzou after bowl ban? Culture is so strong, Tigers never considered it
HOOVER, Ala. — The NCAA’s decision this offseason to levy a 1-year postseason ban on Missouri, in addition to recruiting restrictions, was a huge shock in Columbia. While that decision is still under appeal, the penalties could have been much worse. Outside of Missouri, the bigger shock came when not a single senior left Barry Odom’s program — and a notable graduate transferred in.
Missouri’s ban came with a provision that would allow all rising seniors to transfer and play immediately. The players were even permitted to transfer within the SEC.
Instead, the seniors who have bled together all decided it was better to remain together while the school fights the NCAA’s decision and works toward what could be a special season in Columbia.
“That’s one of the reasons, of the many reasons I’m thankful to be our head coach, because (the players) are so invested in being as good as they can be in 2019,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said during his appearance at 2019 SEC Media Days. “They are so invested in the relationships they have in our locker room. It’s important to them to stick through it.
“It also galvanized our fan base. It’s made our team look at it, the approach, it’s ‘us against everybody’ and through those opportunities and experiences we have had makes us a closer, stronger team.”
Odom wasn’t alone in that sentiment as senior defensive back DeMarkus Acy expressed much the same when asked why not a single senior even entered the NCAA transfer portal following news of the bowl ban. It would have been understandable for a player to at least explore his options, given the team might not play in the postseason, but Missouri’s leaders weren’t interested jumping in the portal.
“It shows how great the foundation is at the University of Missouri,” Acy said. “There’s great camaraderie in the locker room right now. I feel like everyone in there has a genuine love for one another and it just shows that we are close.
“When the sanctions came down, it was devastating, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but the University of Missouri. They gave me this shot to play on this pedestal and that’s the team I’m sticking with.”
Cale Garrett, one of the SEC’s leading returning tacklers, likely had several suitors after the bowl ban was announced. Despite the interest others might have had in him, Garrett expressed that he and his fellow seniors are fully committed to finishing the mission they started.
“Most of us that came up together since freshman year, either as redshirts or true (freshmen), we’ve all been through a lot together,” Garrett said. “We’ve been through 4-8 seasons, we’ve been through 7-5, 8-4 seasons, all that. I think we want to go out together the same way.”
According to Garrett, it wasn’t just the loyalty that kept everyone together following the postseason ban, it was the coaching staff and their years of commitment to the players.
Simply put, Missouri’s seniors knew it wouldn’t be any better anywhere else.
“We also know we have a really good coaching staff, not just football-wise, but strength and conditioning, that genuinely care about us and give us their best on a daily basis,” Garrett said. “A lot of understanding that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s green where you water it, and we all want to grow together and go out the right way.”
When it comes to the chip Missouri’s players have coming into the season, Odom clearly wasn’t kidding.
Acy, in particular, had to another very personal to reason to say no to potential suitors and stay in Columbia.
“They didn’t offer me in high school, I don’t really care about them, to be honest,” Acy said. “The University of Missouri is the only SEC school that offered me. … Missouri trusted in me, no reason to leave.”