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UNLV coach addresses job rumors ahead of conference title game

Updated November 28, 2023 - 7:09 pm

Barry Odom is aware he’s become a popular name to throw out for college coaching vacancies around the country. The UNLV coach didn’t hear it from his agent or athletic administrators, however.

Odom found out from his sons.

“I said, ‘Don’t you think I’d tell you if we had something going on,’” he said.

Odom’s first season in Las Vegas has been an unmitigated success. He led the once-hapless Rebels (9-3, 6-2 Mountain West) to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013, and to their second winning season since 2001. They also reached nine wins for the third time in the program’s 46-year Division I history with two games still left to play.

UNLV’s appearance in the Mountain West championship game at Allegiant Stadium at noon Saturday against Boise State (7-5, 6-2) will be its first in the conference title match. So Odom’s not surprised to see speculation about the futures of himself, his assistants and his players.

“With wins, with success, those things follow,” he said. “To me, for our team, you block out all those noises.”

Odom still sees lots of opportunities at UNLV. He said he appreciates his relationship with athletic director Erick Harper, and has enjoyed living and working in Las Vegas. The 47-year-old coach also emphasized he doesn’t want to lose any staff members or players from his roster who are eligible to return.

He’s realistic enough to know that’s unlikely. Offensive coordinator Brennan Marion, for example, reportedly interviewed for the coaching vacancy at San Diego State days before UNLV’s 37-31 loss to San Jose State in the regular-season finale.

Odom’s no stranger to seeing successful assistants rise up the ranks. Josh Heupel, the current Tennessee coach, was Odom’s offensive coordinator at Missouri before taking the Central Florida coaching job.

Purdue coach Ryan Walters was once Odom’s defensive coordinator at Missouri. Odom said he wants coaches with ambition. It’s his responsibility to create an environment which makes it difficult to leave.

“I want assistant coaches that are great teachers, are great mentors, are great men, are great leaders,” he said. “But also I want them to strive to be coordinators. I want our coordinators to strive to be head coaches.”

As for himself, Odom said he won’t be lured away by a larger contract. He said there are too many factors he enjoys about coaching to just sign the most valuable deal. Odom added UNLV has been “tremendous” when discussing financial situations.

“I’ve never taken a job because of the one-day-a-month paycheck,” he said. “That’s never ever been the case when I was a high school assistant coach to a head coach in high school to a graduate assistant to a director of recruiting, director of operations, position coach, coordinator, head coach.

“I feel like over the years, if you do that, you’re going to be chasing an endless hope of unhappiness.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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