It’s a good time to be Eli Drinkwitz.
The 36-year-old on Saturday completed his first regular season as Appalachian State’s head coach with a Sun Belt championship. While clearly benefitting from the program’s strong tradition and the foundation laid by Scott Satterfield and his staff, Drinkwitz’s first season saw the Mountaineers score wins over North and South Carolina while also becoming the first team in the Sun Belt’s 19-year history to ever post a 12-1 record. If not for a 24-21 loss to Georgia Southern on Halloween night, App State is 13-0 and likely headed to the Cotton Bowl as the top Group of 5 team.
As such, sources told FootballScoop over the weekend that Drinkwitz has fielded significant interest for the openings at both Missouri and Arkansas.
Asked about the jobs (and Arkansas specifically) on Saturday night, Drinkwitz initially called reports linking him to the openings as “fake news” but then said, “At the same time, every opportunity, I owe it to my family to see if that’s something that we’re interested in.”
It’s easy to see why both schools are interested in Drinkwitz. The Alma, Ark., climbed the coaching ladder as a Gus Malzahn disciple, working for him at Auburn and Arkansas State. In 2014, he joined Bryan Harsin’s staff at Boise State as the Broncos’ tight ends coach, then was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach a year later. He then spent three years running Dave Doeren’s offense at NC State before taking the App State job.
Tempting as it must be for an Arkansas native — Drink attended Arkansas Tech — to become the Head Hog, Drinkwitz owes it to himself and his family to approach the opening at Arkansas with caution. The Razorback program is at its lowest point in decades. The roster is depleted after two coaching changes in three years, and Drinkwitz would inherit a 19-game SEC losing streak (the longest by a non-Vanderbilt SEC school since 1970) and a league-worst 13-51 conference record since 2012. Drinkwitz has the next 20-plus years of his career to consider, and there’s no guarantee he would get a second shot at a Power 5 job should his tenure follow a similar script as Bret Bielema and Chad Morris’s respective tenures.
Simply put, Drinkwitz’s agent would be committing malpractice if he did not insist upon a lengthy contract with significant buyout protections in exchange for his client’s services.
At the same time — how many times in one lifetime does the opportunity to coach the lone SEC school in one’s home state truly present itself?
The stakes aren’t quite as high at Missouri. The Tigers went 6-6 this fall and play in the less daunting of the SEC’s two divisions.
At the same time, Mizzou is geographically isolated on the far northwest corner of the SEC map, lacks a significant heritage inside the conference, and would require any coaching staff to land and develop a high volume of hidden gems inside the SEC footprint in order to build a winning roster. It also lacks the home state allure of its southern neighbor.
As the clock ticks on both searches — Ole Miss fired Matt Luke after Arkansas and Mizzou fired their respective head coaches and already has his replacement in place, and Signing Day is now just 10 days away — Drinkwitz could be a Tiger, a Razorback or a Mountaineer at this time next week.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.
Update> Bruce Feldman is now reporting Drink is strongly considering the Missouri job. Stay tuned….
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 8, 2019