John Clay

In Scott Satterfield, Louisville makes the smart choice for a football coach

Montgomery Advertiser/AP

Scott Satterfield is not a big splash hire.

If Louisville had wanted to make waves and draw attention with its new football coach it might have gone the retread route, a la Kansas with Les Miles, or the reunion route, a la North Carolina with Mack Brown.

Instead, U of L AD Vince Tyra went the right route — up-and-coming hire with an emphasis on the upside.

And wait a minute, didn’t U of L already go the reunion route? You know, Bobby Petrino 2.0. After a nice on-the-field start and a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, the Cardinals suddenly crashed and burned, leaving Petrino without a side judge to berate and the Cards in search of a fresh start.

Enter Satterfield, the 45-year-old now former Appalachian State head coach who was introduced as the new Card in charge on Tuesday after a tempted Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm finally turned down a chance to return home last week.

What’s that? Who’s Scott Satterfield? Never heard of the guy, right?

Well, Satterfield is a native of Hillsborough, N.C., who played quarterback at Appalachian State. He entered coaching as an offensive assistant under Jerry Moore at his alma mater. In fact, Satterfield was the playcaller when the then FCS Mountaineers shocked Michigan at the Big House in 2007. ESPN did a 30 for 30 on it.

Satterfield left to join Tim Beckman’s staff at Toledo in 2009, then Mario Cristobal’s staff at Florida International in 2010. In 2011, FIU and a star wideout named T.Y. Hilton beat Louisville 24-17 at Cardinal Stadium. In 2012, Satterfield returned to Boone to be ASU’s offensive coordinator before being promoted to head coach in 2013.

In six seasons, he’s 51-24. Throw out the first two rebuilding years, when Satterfield was a combined 11-13, and he’s 40-11. This year’s team was 10-2 overall, 7-1 in the Sun Belt. (It beat Neal Brown and Troy 21-10.) The past three seasons, ASU has either won or tied for the conference title. League record the past four years: 28-4.

And wait, we’re not finished. His 2016 team took Tennessee to overtime before losing 20-13 in Knoxville. (Tennessee beat Kentucky 49-36 that season.) His 2018 team took Penn State to overtime before losing 45-38 at State College. (Kentucky plays Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.)

In other words, what Satterfield might lack in name recognition, he owns in resume. Just ask Daniel Jeremiah, the former App State quarterback and NFL scout who moonlighted as the San Diego Chargers’ color radio analyst when not at his regular gig with the NFL Network.

“Congrats @UofLFootball,” Jeremiah tweeted Monday. “You hired a fantastic football coach with excellent character. It will take a little time but he’ll get your program turned around. It’ll be fun to watch!”

It might not be that much fun to do, however. Not at first. Judging by its 2-10 disaster of a season, Louisville’s talent level screams instant upgrade. Given the fact it allowed 50 or more points in six of its last seven games, the Cards’ current culture is a mess. To be a success, Satterfield will start with a heavy lift.

Still, he fits the blueprint Tyra followed when looking for a basketball coach to replace Rick Pitino. in Chris Mack, U of L hired someone with a proven record who was willing to leave the comfort zone of his alma mater (Xavier) for a bigger challenge. Though its far too early to give the Mack hire a final grade, it says here a supposedly undermanned Louisville will give John Calipari and Kentucky fits Dec. 29.

I’m willing to predict a similar scenario for Satterfield. Given all the craziness that has gone on at Louisville lately, a fresh face with a different approach is exactly what the Cardinals need right now. After all, big splashes are fun, but what you really want is someone who can swim the length of the pool.

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