Count Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz as one who isn’t digging the recent conference expansion by the Big 12 and the Big Ten. With the Big 12 adding the “Four Corner” schools, while the Big Ten poached Oregon and Washington last week, the Tigers head coach had strong comments during a press conference on Saturday.
“All right, I’m gonna say it. I thought the transfer window — I thought the portal was closed,” Drinkwitz said. “‘Oh, that’s just for the student athletes. The adults in the room get to do whatever they want, apparently.”
“My question is: Did we count the cost?” Drinkwitz asked. “I’m not talking about the financial cost. I’m talking about: Did we count the cost for the student-athletes involved in this decision? What cost is it to those student-athletes?
“We’re talking about a football decision, based on football, but what about softball and baseball, who have to travel across (the) country? Did we ask about the cost to them? “Do we know what the number one indicator or symptom of or cause of mental health (problems) is? It’s lack of rest and sleep.”
Drinkwitz brings up reasonable points, especially for the non-revenue/Olympic sports that will have much more travel (and less glamorous) on their hands. But apparently the Missouri head coach is suffering a form of amnesia. I realize he has spent most of his career outside of Power 5 football, but he may have forgotten that much of the reason we have spent a decade, on and off, dealing with realignment, was in part helped by Drinkwitz’s current employer, the University of Missouri.
Mizzou flirted with the Big Ten for years leading up to their eventual surprise move to the SEC in 2012. That put the Big 12 in a position, along with the losses of Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M at the time, to have to pick up TCU and West Virginia. And since then, the conference realignment game, which was quiet for nearly 10 years, picked back up with Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12, and Missouri’s old conference, once again, fighting for survival.
The Big 12 did just that and added the three AAC schools, plus BYU. Fast forward two years and with the Pac-12 struggling to find a TV deal, the Big 12 swooped in, in the dog-eat-dog world of college football, and snatched the “Four Corners” to create a 16-team conference starting in 2024 and stabilize the league in the No. 3 position behind the SEC and Big Ten.
Also, Drinkwitz got a two-year extension on his contract and a salary bump from $4 million to $6 million. Not bad for a guy with a 17-19 record in three seasons. That kind of coin for such mediocrity is possible because of the enormous TV money that is spent on his sport. Those are the same TV networks who are active participants behind the scenes in conference realignment.
So the holier-than-thou, what-about-the-kids approach from Drinkwitz rings incredibly hollow. If Drinkwitz is “all about the kids”, he should go coach high school ball. But that would be putting his money where his mouth is, and in the world of big-time college sports, that only works for everyone else, never the person in the mirror.