TATUM ‘CRUSHED’

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Curtis Almeter

Former Head Coach of the Missouri Southern football team Bart Tatum makes a statement at a Tuesday press conference following his Monday resignation from the position. Tatum will remain with the team in the role of a football consultant until a new Head Coach is named.

Jordan Larimore

 

Bart Tatum’s six-year tenure as Head Coach of the football team at Missouri Southern has come to an end. Southern announced via a press release that Tatum had resigned Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, Athletics Director Jared Bruggeman told members of the media that he approached Tatum about, “where we were at and where we needed to go.” 

According to Bruggeman, the original dialogue of the subject began Sunday night following a season-ending loss to rival Pittsburg State University on Saturday, and he was notified of Tatum’s official decision to resign on Monday. He said he was not surprised by Tatum’s resignation.

Tatum finished with a 25-39 overall record as Head Coach at Southern, including a 3-7 overall and 2-7 mark in conference in 2011.

“2011 Missouri Southern football got off to a bad start from a win-loss standpoint, but our level of play was very good,” Tatum said. “We played two national playoff teams in our first four weeks. Three of our first four opponents, Central Missouri, Missouri Western and Washburn were a combined 26-7 … The first six opponents next year include no 2011 playoff teams and they ended up a combined 25-40 this season … 2012 will be a magical year for MSSU football, and my players sense it and they’re ready to explode. It appears my family and I will not be around to be a part of that and we are crushed.”

Tatum did not field questions at the noon press conference. He also entered and exited the room with members of his coaching staff, all of whom are still with the program, following him.

“The embarrassment and humiliation of this circumstance has knocked our family face-first on the ground,” an emotional but steady Tatum said. “But we are not knocked out. Stay tuned.”

Tatum will stay with the team in a football consultant role until Southern names his successor, and for the transition period. His contract as Head Coach expires on Dec. 31.

“He maintains his current status through Dec. 31 and will continue that for a time afterwards until he can seek other employment,” Bruggeman said. 

Bruggeman said that all of the assistant coaches in the program remain in their roles, despite swirling Monday rumors that some had been fired. He said Southern’s new Head Coach will have his discretion to retain, replace or otherwise construct his staff and assistant coaches once such a person is in place.

2012 senior wide receiver Kellen Cox and sophomore defensive end Ryon Phillips expressed sadness over losing a part of what they consider to be a family on the team.

“It’s definitely surprising,” Cox said. “With the direction we’re headed with this program and we knew there are great things to come. And it was a little bit shocking … Very emotional. We love ‘B.T.’ We love coach Tatum and we love the rest of the staff. I think the thing most guys are struggling with right now is the fact that those coaches won’t get to reap the fruits of what they’ve sewn the last few years, and just see everything that they’ve done.”

Both players said they do not anticipate players leaving the program as a result of Tatum’s departure.

“He [Tatum] viewed this team as a family,” Phillips said. “He treated us just like his sons. So that’s one thing that I would love to see in new coaches coming in, the passion for this team.”

Social media outlets suggest not everyone will be sad to see Tatum go, however. 

Jabarri Wesley, a former defensive back on the team, made and solicited comments on his Facebook and Twitter accounts suggesting relief among some players at Tatum’s resignation. 

Wesley is from Hughes Springs, Texas, and in two separate comments on one of his own posts about “coaches getting that boot,” says, “Got to be the best day in Missouri since I got here.”

On that same thread, one former player made similar comments, and three former players suggested they may return to the program now that Tatum has left the team.

“I think a coaching change will bring a fresh aspect and new ‘swagger’ to the program,” former Lions backup quarterback Roland Thompson said. “If you look, in recent years, the last two programs who have had coaching changes have been top ten competitors the last couple of years. I think Southern has had the talent; it’s just putting the pieces together. 

“My reaction is it wasn’t a surprise … I feel for him and his family. 

“I also understand why players would feel like that [unhappy about Tatum’s resignation]. Coach Tatum has recruited most of these guys for years, and he is their father figure away from home. 

“So seeing someone close to you leave is and can be hard. I was hurt when coach Karleskint and coach Daye left just because I’ve built a strong bond with those coaches since day one so I understand … the only thing I want for the future players in this program is to have the opportunity to showcase their brain and talents in the classroom and on the field and be rewarded with championships. 

“I will always bleed green and gold no matter what, and for every Lion that walks through those football doors, basketball doors, man woman or child, I will give my all to that person because we are family. Like I said before, my situation is different and all I can do now is look to the future and hope the right guy is there for my fellow brothers.”

A national search will begin immediately for the Lions’ next Head Coach. Bruggeman said there will be a search committee formed, but it is not final yet who would comprise such a committee. 

“Obviously the decision made was nothing personal towards Tatum,” former tight end Jordon Schultz said. “I think the program will be fine, given the type of athletes we have. 

“I feel for coach but everything happens for a reason. I hope he lands on his feet wherever he may go.”

Bruggeman said the characteristics of what he and the athletic department seek in a replacement Head Coach are stated in a job description listed on the NCAA website, saying that he preferred but did not require a candidate with Head Coaching experience, and at least seven years of coaching experience at some level.

“His [Tatum’s] work ethic, his desire and his dedication have never and should never be questioned,” Bruggeman said.