COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz received a two-year contract extension Saturday, 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 Saturday, hours before the Tigers played Kentucky at Faurot Field.

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“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 Desireé 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 Saturday’s 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.

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“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.”