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VOL. 130 | NO. 236 | Friday, December 4, 2015

Norvell Is Tigers' New Football Coach

By Don Wade

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When the University of Memphis hired a largely unknown offensive coordinator out of Texas Christian University he was just 35 years old. Only college football insiders knew and appreciated who Justin Fuente was and what he might become.


(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)   

That was four years ago. The U of M search committee took a chance on Fuente and it paid off. Now they take a chance on 34-year-old Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator at Arizona State, and just as unknown in this part of the world to all but the most diehard of college football fans.

Like Fuente, who left for Virginia Tech just days ago after leading Memphis to a 19-6 record the last two seasons, Norvell is a gamble. As is every coach – young or old – who hasn’t previously led his own college program.

But hiring a sitting head coach carries risk, too. The business of hiring a college football coach is not science. It’s making a calculated investment based on the best data available. And that data, in the real world, is always incomplete because every situation is different.

While Norvell will not be formally introduced until a 4:30 press conference on Friday, Dec. 4, there seems little doubt he is the choice. Sports Illustrated was the first among many media outlets to say that Memphis was hiring Norvell.

So no Barry Odom despite days of speculation.

This move also tells us something about athletic director Tom Bowen. He wasn’t here for the hiring of Fuente and this hire will define him as Memphis AD. Negotiations with Odom, Missouri’s defensive coordinator, broke down earlier this week. Odom is represented by Jimmy Sexton, for what it’s worth, and Memphis/Bowen apparently reached a point where they would no longer wait while Odom waited to see if he would be offered Missouri’s open head coaching position.

Missouri did just that Thursday evening hours after the first word of Norvell's hiring by Memphis. So Mizzou will be holding a press conference Friday as well.

Odom had been defensive coordinator under Fuente here until 2015. And he had strong support among boosters. But the job belongs to Norvell now.

Norvell, who carried the title of deputy head coach, is leaving Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham after almost a decade – the two had worked together at Pitt and Tulsa, too.

This year, ASU’s passing offense was third in the PAC-12 with an average of 289 yards per game and the offense was sixth in points at 34 per game. The Sun Devils went 6-6.

SI previously reported Graham saying of Norvell: “Mike is the best assistant football coach I’ve ever had. He’s the total package.”

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