Missouri HC Eli Drinkwitz endorses Sam Pittman
There aren't many sure things in life, but the disdain between Arkansas and Missouri fans is something you can take to the bank.
That hatred and vitriol doesn't translate over to the relationship between both programs' head football coaches, however.
Just a day after Arkansas Athletics Director Hunter Yurachek put out a statement confirming that head coach Sam Pittman is returning for the 2024 season, Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz took the time to endorse the decision.
"I think that was a smart decision," Drinkwitz said Monday. "I think he's a heck of a football coach. I think he’s done an outstanding job at the University of Arkansas. When we first came into this league, we came together and the resurgence of that program and the job he’s done recruiting and coaching and developing.
"You know, I think back to two years ago, we were 2-4. The board of curators believed enough in me to reaffirm their commitment to us and you look at the result now. I think it sends a positive message to the fans, the recruits and the coaching staff and players in the building that we’re going to continue in this direction and it’s the right direction."
With both teams slated to face off against each other this Friday, comparisons around each program are at an all-time high — especially with the Tigers' 9-2 (5-2 SEC) record. As Drinkwitz alluded to, it wasn't long ago that Missouri was on the struggle bus. Perhaps Pittman and the Razorbacks can follow the same path back to success in Fayetteville.
"Well, he's a good man," Pittman said. "The thing with Drink is, you look at it. He came in and had a nice first season, an All-SEC season. Then two years ago, he was close and this, that and the other. Next year, close and all that kind of stuff and finished 6-6. And then this year, they have as good a team as we have in the SEC.
"I'm not saying they were going to fire him, I'm not saying that. But they stayed with him, and he's got a lot of seniors on his team and is doing a great job over there. I appreciate him saying that. I didn't know that, but I appreciate him saying that. That's just a good person saying what he feels, so I appreciate that."
With confirmation that he'll be returning in 2024, Pittman is ready to push forward and improve the team heading into next season.
"It was never — and I mean this — it was never one time about me," Pittman said. "Never. It was always about the recruits, the kids I’m coaching, the building and the state of Arkansas. I’ve lived a dream life, and I want to continue to do it. But it never was — never — about me, I, nothing like that.
"So the relief part of it was more for the kids, for the building, for recruiting, all those type things. And I was really happy that he did it because I think it needed to go out publicly so we can move forward and have an opportunity to continue to progress and change the football team in recruiting as well."
But first, Arkansas must prepare for a home-tilt against the Missouri Tigers this Friday. The game is set to kick off at 3:00 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on CBS.