Missouri head coach Drinkwitz backs student-athletes amid conference expansion

Eli Drinkwitz

Missouri football head coach Eliah Drinkwitz proposed an interesting question while conference realignment has gained headlines. 

Drinkwitz said Saturday that he thinks student-athletes haven’t been prioritized enough when it comes to thinking about their roles on and off the field around the factors involved in expanding conferences. 

The Big Ten and the Big 12 added programs from the Pac-12 this week, expanding as Oregon and Washington joined the former conference and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah joined the latter. 

“We’re talking about a football decision,” Drinkwitz said. “They based (it) off football. But what about softball and baseball, who have to travel cross country? Did we ask about the cost of them?” 

Beginning in 2024, the Big Ten will have 18 programs and the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 will each have 16. 

Football was a big reason behind factors motivating conferences to leave one for another, Drinkwitz said, but Olympic sports among others have seemingly taken a back seat in those conversations. 

“Do we know what the No. 1 indicator of symptom of or cause of mental health is? It’s lack of rest and sleep,” Drinkwitz said. “Traveling in those baseball, softball games? You know, those people, they travel commercial. They get done playing at 4, they got to go to the airport, they come back, it’s 3 or 4 in the morning, they got to go to class. I mean, did we ask any of them? Are we going to look back?” 

Drinkwitz said his concerns don’t just lie in financial situations. 

The fourth-year Tigers head coach also brought up issues with the transfer portal and name, image and likeness. Drinkwitz said “we’re asking them to go out on their own to get NIL” while reminding others that revenue sharing isn’t a current option. 

“So that’s the thing that’s bothering me right now in this whole situation is we keep trying to limit what the student-athlete can do but then we act on our own,” Drinkwitz said. “And everybody’s got their own reasons, and I’m not questioning any of those. I’m saying as a collective group have we asked ourselves, what’s it going to cost the student-athletes.” 

Drinkwitz believes “football is going to be fine” while college conferences reshape their futures. 

But when it comes to the sports of his comrades and other student-athletes, Drinkwitz made a statement in sticking up for the ones who play the competitions on the field. 

“Every game that I coach, I look up in the stands and find my family,” Drinkwitz said. “I make sure they can be there because that’s what I’m doing this for. And you’re talking about volleyball, baseball, softball, track, I mean, all those other sports, man. They’re not fortunate enough to travel like the way we do. Football will be fine. Football will be fine. Still, we count the cost of the collateral damage of everybody else. I don’t know.”