For much of his tenure as the head coach at Missouri, Eli Drinkwitz has made a lot of noise. Most the noise has been good and fun — there haven’t really been any major gaffes that you can point to — and it’s generally confined to the online social media aspects of the media sphere. For those perennially online, like many of you reading this, and myself included, Drinkwitz has been largely a success.
If you’re one-of-us you’ve also tracked and enjoyed his recruiting successes. In a lot of ways, Drink’s biggest successes so far have resonated with the hardcore fans. In large part they’re all still on board. Aside from a few detractors here and there it seems the online pulse of Mizzou fans is still with Drink.
Poll from yesterday’s Chat at @stltoday:— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) August 19, 2022
What's Mizzou's record after playing La Tech, Kansas State (away), Abilene Christian and Auburn (away)?
72% of chatters confident MU will win at K-State or Auburn - or both
72% of the fan base is still rather positive about the growth for this team and in this season. The kind of fans who show up for Dave Matter chats, subscribe to PowerMizzou, and follow most of what we write here, aren’t unsubstantial. Mizzou has a passionate fan base, but depth is a problem. It’s not enough to fill up Memorial Stadium, or Mizzou Arena for that matter, on a regular basis.
The fair-weather segment hasn’t jumped on yet, as evidenced by the lagging ticket sales. So how does Drinkwitz reach those not living in the online bubble of twitter and the Mizzou media-cycle?
If you go over to MUTigers.com you can look up the game-by-game attendance numbers, in 2014 Mizzou was averaging over 60,000 fans per game. After Gary Pinkel retired, he seemed to take the excitement of the fans with him. Attendance in the post-Pinkel years has lagged, especially when you consider how Missouri fares in comparison to its SEC peers. Since then Mizzou has also reduced capacity of the Stadium with various projects, but the percent to capacity just doesn’t stack up to its previous levels.
So then the question becomes, how do you get more people to show up?
The obvious answer is to win more games. I wish there was some complex algorithm which would spit out an 18-point plan to pack the stands. It doesn’t exist.
When Drinkwitz took over the Missouri program it was a bit of a rebuild. It wasn’t a full build-it-up-from-scrap type rebuild, but the foundation wasn’t great. But he’s gone about doing the necessary things towards building up a more consistent program. He’s landed the recruiting classes, but recruiting at a high level doesn’t pay off for a few years. Most of the elite players who’ve signed up are just hitting campus, or are in their second year.
It takes time for the talent to develop. There aren’t many elite level players who are impactful from the first snap. There are only so many guys who should hit campus with expectations anywhere near a level for what we’ve talked about with Luther Burden. Most of the talent will start to hit after a few years.
When we’ve issued a Call To Action or talked about Mizzou’s fan base issues, the point hasn’t been about the die-hards. Most of the people who get upset at the theme aren’t the problem. The problem is the more casual fan. For whatever reason those fans haven’t been coming out. The difference between 40 or 45,000 fans and 61,000 (roughly the capacity) is reaching anyone who might be on the fence and getting them to show up.
And there is reason to feel excited about this season. It might be an ‘Eat Your Vegetables’ season, but instead of it being a lightly salted steamed broccoli kind of dish maybe it’s a honey glazed carrots kind of dish? Maybe it’s not reheated canned green beans, but instead a warm brussel sprout salad with pancetta, or a caprese salad. Sure it isn’t the big juicy steak you wanted, but it’s still delicious and fulfilling.
A young offense and an upstart defense figuring things out, maybe hitting a few bumps along the road, but getting better as the season progresses sure sounds fulfilling for a third year. Especially one where you have to admit that the build Eli Drinkwitz has undergone at Mizzou has been pretty good.