Tatum resigns as Head Coach

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.”

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. 

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.

“Coach Tatum has brought an incredible amount of professionalism to the job at Missouri Southern,” Bruggeman said. “His work ethic, his desire and his dedication have never and should never be questioned. I am personally grateful to Bart and his staff for being a team player, for his hard work and sacrifices he has made, and for the character he has demonstrated during his time at Southern.”