Six of the highest-paid Missouri athletics staff members are taking voluntary pay cuts from May 1 to July 31, the school confirmed Thursday night.


The list includes head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz, head men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, athletic director Jim Sterk, head women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton, head wrestling coach Brian Smith and head baseball coach Steve Bieser.


The university announced this week that it plans for unit budget cuts of up to 15%. Top administrators are taking a 10% pay cut as the four-campus system looks for ways to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic.


Around 20 MU athletics employees, made up of both coaches and staff, received an email from university leadership asking for participation in the 10% pay reduction that Mun Choi, UM System president and interim chancellor of the Columbia campus, and other leaders have agreed to take.


"In the wake of the unprecedented challenges the University of Missouri, our state and nation are facing, collectively we believed it was important to step forward and support President Choi and other university leaders at this time," Sterk said in a statement Thursday. "As leaders, I believe it is important that we lead by example, especially in times of crisis, and this is one way that we can demonstrate that.


"Part of our Win it Right culture includes togetherness, and I appreciate Eliah, Cuonzo, Robin, Brian and Steve’s unselfishness and willingness to step forward in these difficult times to voluntarily give up a part of their compensation. All five of them have impeccable character and understand the role that they play as leaders on our campus."


Drinkwitz is the highest paid of the bunch, in the first of a six-year contract worth $4 million per year. Martin’s seven-year contract earns him $3 million per year. Sterk makes $700,000 per year as part of a seven-year deal.


MU will save at least $100,000 from the pay cut Drinkwitz is taking alone.


While speaking with reporters Wednesday, Choi said the university system could experience a revenue shortfall of up to $180 million.


Other top-level athletics employees have until Tuesday to accept the cuts.


eblum@columbiatribune.com