First-year Louisville coach Scott Satterfield bringing Cardinals a true football identity



CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Scott Satterfield is largely responsible for establishing Appalachian State’s identity in the FBS over the last five seasons.

The Mountaineers won at least a share of three straight Sun Belt championships under Satterfield, who played quarterback at the school from 1991-95. If he’d desired, he could have stayed in the comfort zone of Boone, N.C., until he retired.

Satterfield, 46, knew a few offers would come during the offseason. He just didn’t know much about Louisville when athletic director Vince Tyra called. Satterfield did not have time to research when, as he put it, “things got real.”

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“With Louisville, you think Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson,” Satterfield told Sporting News from the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., in July. “These guys are some great players and did some really good things, so in my mind it’s like, ‘You can win there.’ Then, they are in the ACC. So those two things told me we wanted to take a look at this school.”

Satterfield took the job at a Louisville program that has been trying to find its longterm identity since Bobby Petrino took the job the first time in 2003. The Cardinals have gone through four conferences with four coaching changes – including two stints by Petrino – to get to Satterfield. There were highs (Lamar Jackson’s epic run to the Heisman Trophy) and lows (notably, last year’s 2-10 bottom-out that included a winless record in the ACC Atlantic).

The Cardinals have a .645 winning percentage in the FBS since 2003, a touch higher than the Mountaineers’ five-year mark at .647. It’s not that different – only on a bigger stage that Appalachian State might never get to take. Maybe Satterfield is on to something. Louisville is, too. Satterfield easily could pan out as the best longterm payoff among the 2019 batch of first-year coaches.

Satterfield was candid when discussing the difficulty of leaving his alma mater for Louisville. After talking to Tyra about the opening, Satterfield knew the decision would have to be made quickly. He conducted as much research as possible and, admitting that wasn’t enough, consulted his wife Beth, who ran track at Appalachian State. Only then did he make the decision that would affect his family of five, including three children.

“My kids were not real fired up,” Satterfield told SN. “They’re all in high school. They’re going to have to move. Beth was like, ‘Listen. We need to take advantage of this opportunity, and let’s go. We’ll make the most of it.’

“Any time you go to a new town it’s tough,” he said. “It’s hard, and it takes a while to get ingrained in the town and engrained with the people.”

That’s honesty that cuts through both ways. Satterfield spent all but three years coaching since 1998 at Appalachian State. He got the job at Louisville after Purdue coach Jeff Brohm – a Louisville native who played quarterback for the Cardinals from 1989-93 and served as an assistant on the team from 2003-08 – turned town his alma mater to remain head coach at Purdue.

“Satterfield was pretty warmly received,” Louisville radio host Mark Ennis, publisher of CardinalSports.com, told SN. “I think it was totally unanimous because of the whole flirtation with Jeff Brohm, but almost from the day he was introduced until now he’s done a very good job winning people over with his own personality.”

Satterfield fits that ACC coach profile. He speaks with a Southern twang, has deep roots entrenched in the Carolinas and spent a chunk of the ACC Kickoff telling a story about rooming with Steve Spurrier’s son at a football camp when his dad was still the Head Ball Coach was at Duke.

That’s apropos, considering it was a game against No. 2 Duke basketball in February where Satterfield saw the full effect of Louisville’s fan base.

“My first deal with the fans was at the basketball games and going to the (KFC) YUM Center and seeing Coach (Chris) Mack and what they did basketball-wise,” Satterfield said. “That was phenomenal when Duke came in. We’ve got 23,000. We’ve got a ‘Blackout.’ That was awesome.’ We’ve got to generate excitement in our stadium so we can get the same passion in our stadium, too.”

The Cardinals lost that game 71-69, but Satterfield had an idea by then that this could work once the program was back up to speed. After all, Louisville lost 77-16 to No. 2 Clemson on the football field in November.

Scott Satterfield watches on during spring practice at Louisville (Louisville Athletics)

Senior receiver Seth Dawkins can pinpoint the moment he bought in to his new coach: It was during an early-morning workout under strength coach Mike Sirignano, who held the same position at App State. He didn’t like the energy from his team, and let them know.

“We have a 7 o’clock lift group, and we came not in energized and very lackadaisical,” Dawkins said. “This man ran the mess – I’m talking about we were running 45 or 50 minutes straight half-gassers – I think we ran 28 or 30 of them.”

Sirignano left the players with a message throughout each sprint.

“Winners win.”

The players started to learn how Satterfield operated at App State, and they were surprised how much they liked it. Satterfield took inventory on the roster and found some surprises of his own. The Cardinals had 18 receivers and eight offensive linemen on scholarship, a trend he wants to reverse immediately. He went about trying to revive a team that ranked 122rd in scoring offense (19.8 ppg) and 128th in scoring defense (44.1 ppg) in 2018.

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“When you left App and go to an ACC school, and I’m thinking, ‘We had a good team at App, but we’re going to a different level,'” Satterfield said. “That wasn’t the case.”

Satterfield isn’t about to make excuses, though. He went to work on the recruiting trail, where the first-year coach has pieced together a top-30 recruiting class so far. Louisville ranked No. 69 according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings last year. He invited Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, a close friend in the coaching ranks dating back to their time together at Toledo, to practices. Campbell is in Year 3 of a remarkable turnaround with the Cyclones.

“It’s 100 percent possible,” Satterfield said when asked if Louisville could enjoy the same makeover. “Timeline, I don’t know. That’s possible here, and that will be the goal. That’s what we’ll get to.”

Dawkins said the offense has been simplified from Petrino’s version, and that the smaller playbook will lead to better results. Linebacker Dorian Etheridge said the end of the spring brought the team closer to their coach, even if that process took time.

“When I first met him, he’s real laid back, laid-back guy,” Etheridge said. “I didn’t know how I really felt about that. Every coach I’ve ever had has been an up-in-your-face type of guy. He’s laid back until you, like, start messing up, then definitely he’ll gladly intervene.”

Satterfield plans on building Louisville’s identity at the most important position. Jackson elevated the program’s profile with a Heisman Trophy. Bridgewater and Brian Brohm played in BCS bowls. That work will now fall to Jawon Pass and Malik Cunningham in 2019.

“We’re utilizing the success I’ve had with quarterbacks in the past at App,” Satterfield said. “It’s at a different level, but they were among the best in the country at that level. We certainly want to get the top-notch players, and I think we’ve got a few coming in that will.”

Satterfield’s quarterback tree includes Richie Williams, Armanti Edwards, Taylor Lamb and Zac Thomas, who earned Sun Belt Player of the Year honors last season. Williams and Edwards won FCS national championships, and Lamb and Thomas helped establish the Mountaineers in the FBS.

Of course, Appalachian State’s signature games remains the 34-32 upset against Michigan on Sept. 1, 2007. Satterfield was the quarterbacks coach for that game. He was the head coach when the Mountaineers nearly shocked Tennessee in a 20-13 loss on Sept. 1, 2016, and again when they fell to No. 10 Penn State 45-38 on Sept. 1, 2018. Both of those games went to overtime.

Appalachian State has that identity. It’s the same mindset the coach intends to bring to Louisville.

“I think we’re going to similar stuff with the identity we had at App as far as football goes.,” Satterfield said. “We want to do things right. I want teams when they play us to say, ‘Man those guys played their tails off. They played as hard as any team we played this year.’ That’s what I want. What that translates to win-wise, I don’t know, but that’s all we ever wanted at App.”

Louisville gets that now, and that line of thinking makes Satterfield one of the more intriguing first-year coaches. Mack Brown and Les Miles should make an impact at North Carolina and Kansas, respectively, but they’ve won national titles before. Ryan Day will be expected to do the same at Ohio State, but expectations in Columbus are different than at other other programs across the country.

Satterfield will find out just how far the Cardinals need to come in a Labor Day opener against Notre Dame. That will be the first step in reshaping a program still looking to take the next big step in the ACC.

It will “get real” again for Satterfield at that point, with one major difference: He has no decision to make now. Satterfield knows where he belongs.

That is where a new identity starts.

“I’ll sit back at pregame and look around and say, ‘This is awesome,'” Satterfield said. “I’ll soak it up and soak it in, then hopefully we find a way to get a first down when reality hits. I’ve had a lot of success coaching bowls and coaching national championships, but I’ve always taken time to enjoy it.”





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