Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz gets 2-year contract extension

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz received a two-year contract extension, tying him to the Tigers through the 2027 season for a level of stability that has been missing from the program in recent years.

The school did not announce the terms of the extension, though a university spokesman said Drinkwitz would receive an increase in guaranteed paid. His original six-year deal paid him $4 million annually before incentives.

“You can’t do this alone, and our players, coaches and staff have worked their tails off and stuck with the process as we’ve built this program,” Drinkwitz said in a statement hours before the Tigers played Kentucky at Faurot Field.

“We feel strongly about our trajectory and are proud to represent our state’s flagship institution,” Drinkwitz said. “We are grateful for the investment in our program from the administration and excited about the future of Mizzou football.”

Drinkwitz was hired in 2019 after the program had slipped to mediocrity under Barry Odom, but his rebuild was made more complicated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drinkwitz, who won 12 games in his lone season as head coach at Appalachian State, wound up 5-5 in his debut season and 6-7 with a loss in the Armed Forces Bowl last year.

The Tigers started just 2-4 this season, getting blown out by former Big 12 rival Kansas State and losing consecutive down-to-the-wire games to Auburn, top-ranked Georgia and Florida. That slow start led some to believe that Drinkwitz, who’d been hired by athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois’s predecessor, would be on the hot seat the remainder of the season.

He was still just 15-16 and 10-13 in SEC play heading into the game against the Wildcats.

The close call against the defending national champion Bulldogs showed the Tigers were on the right track, though, and back-to-back wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina apparently gave Missouri officials confidence in the direction of the program. The university’s board of curators voted 7-0 to approve Drinkwitz’s contract extension.

“Coach Drinkwitz and his staff have created great momentum in our football program.” Missouri President Mun Choi said. “You can feel the excitement and you see it in the fans as they have turned out in great numbers at Faurot Field.

“Coach Drinkwitz’s program is a key part of the results-driven, championship culture that AD Reed-Francois is building to help support our student-athletes. Like so many of our fans, I am excited to see what the future holds for Mizzou football.”

Earlier this week, first-year Missouri defensive coordinator Blake Baker agreed to an extension that will keep him with the Tigers through the 2025 season. It increased his pay from $600,000 to an average salary of $1.2 million.

“Our football team is on the right trajectory,” Reed-Francois said, “and we are seeing results in recruiting and on the field. Coach Drinkwitz is a dynamic leader who brings people together and we believe in our football staff’s combined commitment to excellence in the classroom and in the community. We are looking forward to him continuing to lead our program into the future.”

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.