On the surface, it doesn’t seem like Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz should feel hot breath on the back of his neck.
After all, he’s entering only his third season in charge at Columbia, Missouri, after a successful run with Appalachian State in the Sun Belt. Missouri football competes annually in the SEC against the likes of Florida and Georgia on the gridiron.
But in the “Show Me” state on Drinkwitz, the pressure is mounting to deliver results for Missouri, and a poor fall 2022 campaign could see Tigers Brass showing the door the 38-year-old.
Missouri soccer head coach Eliah Drinkwitz now has the SEC’s hottest coaching seat due to his lackluster results after two seasons with the Tigers
Sure, Auburn’s Bryan Harsin had a bizarre spring break saga in which the university’s boosters apparently wanted to stage a coup after a lackluster first season on the Plains. Harsin has an expensive takeover, however, and the team is still rebuilding after Gus Malzahn. Clark Lea ended his freshman year at Vanderbilt with a 2-10 record, but what do the Commodores really expect?
No SEC coach should feel the heat in 2022 like Drinkwitz did, and here’s why:
1. Missouri has not set a winning record since 2018.
Use the SEC-only schedule in 2020 as an excuse, but the Tigers finished 2021 with a 6-7 record after losses to Army, Boston College and Kentucky — hardly the makings of a major college football program.
Missouri has lost back-to-back games against Tennessee under Drinkwitz by 35-12 and 62-24. Missouri has had a 1-6 record against ranked opponents over the past two seasons, with the only win over LSU coming in early 2020 — in other words, before the Bayou Bengals self-imploded after their 2019 national championship run.
Over the past decade, Tigers fans have seen 11 and 12 wins in the team’s first three seasons in the SEC under former coach Gary Pinkel. However, those are distant memories today as the team struggles to compete in the nation’s toughest conference.
2. Regional rivals have eclipsed Missouri
The newly attempted “Battle Line” scrum with Arkansas has gone in favor of the Razorbacks, who faltered last season with a 34-17 win over Missouri in five games. It also appears that Sam Pittman Arkansas is headed in the right direction, which is particularly notable given that Drinkwitz grew up in Alma, Arkansas.
Former Big Eight/Big 12 rivals Oklahoma State have had double-digit wins in four of their last seven seasons, including last year’s 12-2 finish and the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.
Even SEC East rival Kentucky has demonstrated the ability to stitch together 10 winning seasons under head coach Mark Stoops, who has sent 10 Wildcats as NFL draft selections the past two springs. That kind of success has eluded Missouri in recent years.
Former Big 12 members Oklahoma and Texas will soon officially join the SEC, with the potential to play frequently in Missouri (if not in a revamped SEC West, they’d likely be regular sparring partners with the Tigers).
3. The recruits are coming, but where are the big wins?
Missouri actually ranked 15th in the nation in the recruiting cycle for the 2022 class, according to 247 Sports, after finishing in the top 30 the previous year.
It may be unfair to put the burden of immediate expectations on five-star recruits like Luther Burden III, an East St. Louis wide receiver who preferred the Tigers to reported offers from Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State.
However, it will still be difficult to please home fans with another losing season with the plethora of new talent that has come to Missouri.
Overall, Drinkwitz boasts an 11-12 record for his $5 million annual contract. Other college football coaches have been canned for the same ho-hum results in less time; come on, it’s the 2020s and big boosters have less patience than ever.
How much longer will the Tigers accept mediocrity under Drinkwitz?