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Pourover: Missouri needs to decide if it wants to be a baseball school or not

Being in the SEC the program faces long odds, but the different between good and bad is commitment.

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Syndication: Knoxville Saul Young/News Sentinel

Tuesday night, Auburn closed the book on Missouri baseball. We don’t talk a lot about Missouri baseball around here. Kortay Vincent does a good job of keeping the coverage up to date, but the Tigers haven’t really been a program where a heavy investment on our part into coverage would result in much of a payoff... aside from making Trripleplay pretty happy.

But even with the tepid interest, the questions about head coach Steve Bieser’s job status were poking out. Yesterday, Karen explored the will they-won’t they side of the argument. And she brought up Dave Matter’s chat response to Bieser’s job performance versus expectations. But I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the expectations are here. If you look at the investment Mizzou has made... I’m not sure Bieser hasn’t met or exceeded expectations in every season except one (I’ll admit that 2021 was a disaster).

Mizzou Baseball might be the perfect analogy for the chicken and the egg. The passion for Mizzou Baseball is limited, so there isn’t much investment, a lack of investment means the team is rarely good. Since the team is rarely good, there’s limited passion from the fans. The circle continues.

When the Tigers moved to the SEC, the baseball team was used to being pretty good. But spending in the Big 12 isn’t the same as the SEC. Mizzou was used to being able to play along with schools like Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and other mid-tier level Power Conference programs. But the SEC is a very big spending league. Just how much of a big spending league? Per an article in the Tennessean, there are several SEC Baseball Managers who make more than MLB managers:

SEC baseball coaching salaries

  • Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin: $2,447,059
  • Ole Miss’ Mike Bianco: $1.625 million
  • Texas A&M’s Jim Schlossnagle: $1.58 million
  • Tennessee’s Tony Vitello: $1.5 million
  • Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn: $1.35 million
  • Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan: $1,290,567
  • Mississippi State’s Chris Lemonis: $1.275 million
  • LSU’s Jay Johnson: $1.25 million
  • Auburn’s Butch Thompson: $1.25 million
  • Georgia’s Scott Stricklin: $655,000
  • South Carolina’s Mark Kingston: $600,000
  • Kentucky’s Nick Mingione: $575,000
  • Alabama’s Brad Bohannon: $500,000*
  • Missouri’s Steve Bieser: $475,000.08

*Bohannon was fired in May as he was connected to some questionable gambling practices.

In 2021, Mizzou’s total expenses, per the Department of Eduction, was around $2.58 million. So the entire program spent just a little more than what Vanderbilt paid their coach. Auburn spent nearly $6 million. Georgia spent over a million more than Mizzou, and they just fired their coach after 10 years.

Just how different are expectations at Missouri versus the rest of the league they play in?

Did you know they set an attendance record this year? 37,133 over 26 games amounts to 1,428 per game. The top four schools for attendance in the NCAA were all in the SEC (Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State), and seven of the top 10 schools were SEC schools as well (South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida). Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Georgia were all in the top 25.

The Bulldogs were 25th with around 3,125 per game. So Mizzou is about halfway there.

Could winning more improve attendance?

Mizzou Baseball feels a little bit like where Mizzou Basketball was several years ago. They were achieving in a way that lined up with the spending, except Mizzou Basketball wasn’t in the basement, they were towards the bottom. Mizzou Football has been towards the bottom in spending, and fighting towards the middle. Is it fair to expect coaches to consistently overachieve?

And as for the ‘JUST SPEND MORE’ side... it’s more complicated because of the fan support. Without a built in revenue generator the program can only move toward deficit spending. And with recent raises for both Eli Drinkwitz and Dennis Gates... the Athletic department has been spending in the red to keep up with the Jones’s. And now there’s a hefty amount of money from donors being funneled not into the coffers of the Athletic department, but into NIL Collectives.

I don’t pretend to know how much money Mizzou has with their NIL Collectives versus their counterparts. We’ve heard on the basketball side the money is there and competitive. On the Football side, the money seemed good enough to keep talented defenders like Ty’Ron Hopper, Darius Robinson, Ennis Rakestraw, Jaylon Carlies, and others around for another season. They lured a former 4-star Quarterback recruit from the transfer portal, and lured a 4-star QB from Georgia just a year ago.

Is that money available for baseball?

I don’t know.

What I do know, is Bieser has performed admirably. He knows the job. He’s done... well enough. He’s made due with a limited budget in comparison to his peers, and he was a few injured pitchers from having a pretty solid season.

Could Mizzou fire Steve Bieser? Sure they could. I’m not sure they could have a coach who could do any better given the circumstances, but they could give it a try. You can spin the wheel of coaching changes and see if you turn up gold. Or they could improve the budget, improve the NIL setup, and try to see if Bieser is the right guy in the right situation already.