BOZICH | Satterfield arrives at Louisville with credentials, excitement and no guarantees
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Tom Jurich made five head coaching hires with the University of Louisville football program. Without question, he talked with more conviction about Steve Kragthorpe than the others.
Louisville fans turned on Kragthorpe about a game and a half into his rocky 36-game, 21-defeat, three-year stay.
Charlie Strong was considered the biggest reach among the Jurich hires.
No head coaching experience. Was passed over for job after job. Didn’t interview well. That was the beginning of the list.
Four seasons, 37 wins and a string of NFL Draft picks later, Strong was off to Texas after one of the most dynamic stretches in Cardinals’ history.
Now Scott Satterfield is bound for Louisville from Appalachian State. What does that have to do with Kragthorpe or Strong?
Just this: You never know.
Satterfield’s credentials suggest he has earned the opportunity to find out. He checks many boxes as a good hire. One reason Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra fired Bobby Petrino with two games remaining was to give himself time to evaluate and vet several candidates. Tyra has been high on Satterfield for several weeks.
But you never know.
The chatter around this hire is running both ways.
After swinging for the automatic home run of Jeff Brohm, Tyra landed his second pick in Satterfield. I’d expect a joke or two about that during Satterfield’s introductory press conference Tuesday afternoon. We've all been second choices a some points in our lives, right?
Reaction to the hire has run in every direction.
Some are convinced Satterfield is one of the game’s emerging stars, stardom the coach has suggested by winning 68 percent of his games while navigating the Appalachian State program from FCS to FBS status.
The man has averaged 10 wins over his last four seasons with a winning percentage of 87.5 percent in Sun Belt Conference games. I don’t care if you’re coaching in Tuscaloosa, South Bend or Paoli, if you’re winning nearly 88 percent of your league games you’re dominating your primary competition.
“I think it’s a great hire,” said one former college football assistant coach with experience in the SEC, Big Ten and other conferences.
“I know Scott. I’ve been around him and watched him work. He’s got a system he believes in and he’ll recruit to it. He’s very good at identifying players who fit his system and developing them. He’s exactly what Louisville needs right now.”
Others are less certain. Winning in the Sun Belt Conference is a wonderful achievement. But it’s not the same as going cleat to cleat with Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Kentucky.
The recruiting demands are different. Talent identification is more precise. The media and alumni responsibilities are greater. The spotlight is hotter.
This is a guy who has worked all but three of his 21 seasons as a coach in Boone, N.C., (pop. 18,834), working at Appalachian State, where he also played quarterback. He left twice and returned to his alma mater. At 45, he’s leaving his comfort zone
He’s got work to do, building back the program’s talent base, scrubbing the locker room culture of whatever affected the place this season and connecting with high school coaches around the state and region. Job One also includes energizing a significant chunk of the fan base that was deflated after Brohm decided to stay at Purdue instead of coming home.
I’ll say it again: You never know.
A decade ago the hiring of Dabo Swinney by Clemson was ripped by many who suspected he was merely a recruiter who lacked an experience coordinating an offense. Even after Swinney starting rolling, he was questioned for “Clemsoning,” or losing games his team appeared to be in position to win.
You’d have to throw at least $10 million per season for a large number of seasons to get Swinney out of Clemson today.
Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke looked like putts in the leather at Michigan They flopped. Steve Spurrier was great at Duke, greater at Florida and a disappointment at South Carolina. Not everybody was sold on James Franklin at Vanderbilt or Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. They delivered.
I could go on.
Satterfield’s credentials indicate his teams are coached to run the ball with authority. They score points, 38 or more in half of their 12 games. Because Satterfield once played quarterback, he is viewed by many as an offensive guy.
That’s a mistake. Appalachian State has ranked in the Top 25 in scoring defense the last four seasons as well as the Top 20 in total defense in three of the last four.
Those are some of the credentials that convinced Tyra that Satterfield was the guy who could lead Louisville out of the mess left by Bobby Petrino.
Will he succeed the way Strong and John L. Smith succeeded or struggle the way Kragthorpe or Ron Cooper struggled?
You never know.
But his credentials suggest Scott Satterfield has earned the chance to find out — and for Louisville fans to get excited again.
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