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UNLV hires 13th football coach

A coaching search devoid of leaks that kept the media and UNLV fans guessing resulted Tuesday in the hiring of Barry Odom as the program’s 13th football coach. He succeeds Marcus Arroyo, who was fired on Nov. 28.

Odom, who met with the UNLV players Tuesday afternoon, will be formally introduced at 10 a.m. Wednesday during a press conference at the Richard Tam Alumni Hall.

His hiring fits most of the criteria UNLV Athletic Director Erick Harper laid out during his press conference after dismissing Arroyo following a 5-7 season. The UNLV athletic director wanted a coach with previous coaching experience.

Odom, who spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator and associate head coach at Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference, was the head coach at Missouri from 2016-19.

“I’m honored and excited to begin developing a relationship with our student-athletes and provide them a great foundation for success in every area of their lives,” Odom, who is 46, said in a press release.

Missouri only suffered one losing season during Odom’s four-year tenure, though he finished with a 25-25 record during his time with the Tigers. He is the first coach to be hired with previous FBS coaching experience at UNLV since John Robinson was brought in ahead of the 1999 season.

“He is unanimously well-respected around the country,” Harper said, “and is the right person at the right time for the Rebels as this program, this department and this university continue to ascend as part of the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World here in Las Vegas.”

Odom’s ascent at Missouri was a long, arduous process. A Maysville, Oklahoma, native, he played four seasons for the Tigers between 1996-99 before joining the staff as an administrative graduate assistant in 2003.

He continued to move up the ranks on the administrative side, serving as a Missouri’s director of football operations between 2006-08 before becoming the safeties coach in 2009.

He briefly left his alma mater to become the defensive coordinator at Memphis in 2012 before returning to Columbia, Missouri, in 2015. Odom succeeded Gary Pinkel as the Tigers coach in 2016.

His defenses were the foundation of his program. Odom’s 2019 defense was third in the SEC in total offense and allowed just 19.4 points per game. A year prior, he became just the fourth coach in Missouri program history to lead the Tigers to two bowl games during his first three seasons at the helm.

However, Odom’s 2019 season has major echoes of UNLV’s 2022 campaign. After starting the year with a loss to Wyoming, Odom’s Tigers won five consecutive games to build momentum.

A loss to Vanderbilt, though, triggered a five-game losing streak which was only salvaged by a rivalry win against Arkansas. It wasn’t enough to save his job, and Odom was fired the next morning.

Odom joined the Razorbacks the next season as Sam Pittman’s defensive coordinator. His secondary had 13 interceptions — second in the SEC — in 2020. A year later, Arkansas’ defense allowed just 22.9 points per game.

“Coach Odom knows what it takes to compete and win on college football’s biggest stages, and we’re thrilled that he’s bringing his incredible talent, work ethic and commitment to success to UNLV,” President Keith E. Whitfield said in a press release. “We have high expectations for UNLV football, and Coach Odom is a proven leader who will help elevate our program to new levels of success.”

Arroyo was fired after going 7-23 during his three-year tenure and missing out on bowl eligibility. His .233 winning percentage was the second-worst in program history. UNLV hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013, its most-recent winning season. The Rebels have finished 6-6 or better just three times since joining the Mountain West in 1999.

“This city is founded on opportunity,” Odom said. “And we look forward to this opportunity to lead this program and engage with this amazing community and Rebels everywhere.”

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

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