When talking about the greatest football coach of all times in the history of the University of Missouri, you only have to apply a couple standards before all but a few fall by the wayside.
For example, according to the 2016 Mizzou Football Media Guide, Al Onofrio is in the Tigers Hall of Fame after serving as Dan Devine's predecessor for seven years from 1971-'77. This is a perfect example of things aren't always what they seem, though, because while Onofrio might to this very day still bleed black and gold, what he's best known for is creating and guiding Devine's defenses during his 13 years atop the program.
As a head coach himself Onofrio was 38-41 in seven years. That equates to a .481 win percentage with no league titles and a 1-10 performance his first year on the job in 1971. True, the Tigers did go 8-4 in 1973 and '78, and while nobody is saying he wasn't a great coach for the University of Missouri, he simply wasn't the greatest head coach the school has ever known.
Directly after Onofrio came Warren Powers from 1978-'84, and while these seven years were certainly better than the seven that proceeded it (46-33-3), overall Powers only played three more games than Onofrio did (82-79). Powers also didn't win any conference championships, but in '78 th Tigers finished the year ranked 15th by the AP and 14th by UPI, in '79 the squad ended up ranked 20th by UPI and in '81 Mizzou finshed the season listed 19th by the AP and 20th by UPI.
Things started going downhill after that as Missouri went 5-4-2 in '82, 7-5 in '83 and 3-7-1 in '84 and that's when enough was enough and it was time for a change and Powers was out as the head man in Columbia. Having already discussed the tremendous accomplishments of Devine and Gary Pinkel, the only other individual worth even mentioning beyond Don Faurot, besides also-rans like Woody Widenhofer and Larry Smith already mentioned in part one, might be Gwinn Henry.
That's because Henry was the first coach at the school to ever spend a serious amount of time guiding this program. Before him no one had even spent half as much time as the Tigers head coach and 19 other men had held the job prior to him and during his nine years in charge the team went 40-28-9. A .578 win percentage is nothing to scoff at, but that took place from 1923-31. The world was a different place then and football was a different game. Playbooks were used for an entire season.
Now-a-days coaches change so much from one week to the next it's almost unfair how much players have to learn between contests. What was required of a coach 80-90 years ago just isn't the same as it is currently. Todays individuals have to deal with much more. I simply can't consider someone who used the Statue of Liberty as a play when thinking about the greats because that statue might be a lot of things, but it hasn't been a football play since Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull were in short pants.
Which brings me to my biggest complaint about Don Faurot. For example, he coached at Mizzou from 1935-42 and from 1945-56. That first stint included Big Six titles in '39, '41 and '42, but was the sport even integrated by then? Faurot and the Tigers also won the Big Six in his first year back in 1945 with a record of 6-4, and then never won another championship until they not only were two coaches removed, but were also part of a new league (Big Eight).
So who is the greatest football coach in University of Missouri history? Up to this point that's a matter of opinion, but as for what the future holds I think we're in agreement that what we all want is for Barry Odom to superceed the accomplishments of each of these individuals. The best case scenario would be for the current man up top to lead the Tigers to the promised land the way Barry Switzer did for Oklahoma at one time or Bobby Bowden did for Florida State.
Evoking those names might sound like the goals are lofty at U of M and they are, but not unrealistic. Nobody is suggesting they go out and spend a kings ransom to hire someone like Jimbo Fisher the way Texas did. Odom is a Missouri man who played for Larry Smith and has 14 years with this program between playing and coaching. All I'm saying is let's give the man an entire year to truly prove himself because after year one he was barely given that kind of leeway to get through year two and if you don't believe in your heroes sometimes that's not what they end up becoming.