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The Courier Journal’s Gentry Estes and Jake Lourim on Jeff Brohm declining the Louisville job
Scott Utterback, Louisville Courier Journal

On a day of high-profile league title games throughout college football, Saturday’s largely overshadowed Sun Belt Conference championship game could take on added significance for Louisville.

Appalachian State (9-2) is hosting Louisiana (7-5) at noon Saturday (TV: ESPN) and its coach Scott Satterfield’s name has already popped up prominently after the Cardinals failed to land Purdue’s Jeff Brohm in their efforts to replace Bobby Petrino.

The Mountaineers are 16.5-point favorites to win and secure the Sun Belt title Saturday, which would make the third year in a row that ASU has attained at least a share of its conference championship (the league didn’t have a title game until this year).  

ASU clinched the Sun Belt’s Eastern Division by beating Neal Brown’s Troy team 21-10 this past weekend.

“We’ve done a lot of firsts here at Appalachian State in our program, and now we’re adding to it,” Satterfield said after the victory.

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More: With Jeff Brohm out, here are 6 Louisville football coach candidates

As soon as Saturday’s game ends, there could be competition for Louisville if it seriously pursues Satterfield’s services – most notably from ACC rival Georgia Tech, which is now searching to replace retiring coach Paul Johnson. 

In the meantime, here’s a closer look at potential candidate to be Louisville’s next coach.

He has kept to his North Carolina roots

A native of Hillsborough, North Carolina, near Durham and Chapel Hill, the 45-year-old Satterfield has pretty much been a lifelong North Carolinian, and especially as it pertains to his alma mater, Appalachian State University in Boone.

One season on the staff at Toledo (2009) and two seasons on the staff at Florida International (2010-11) were the only three years of his football career that were not spent at Appalachian State.

“I bleed black and gold through and through,” Satterfield said when taking ASU’s head coaching job in December 2012, per the Winston-Salem Journal.

More coverage: With Jeff Brohm out, signs point to Scott Satterfield as of Thursday

He played quarterback for ASU’s Jerry Moore from 1991-95 (first joining the team as a walk-on) and was an offensive assistant from 1998-08 before returning an offensive coordinator in 2012 and taking over as head coach before the 2013 season when Moore retired after 24 years. 

“He grew up in Hillsborough, N.C., and is not a big-city guy,” David Jones of the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot-News wrote recently of Satterfield. “And he strikes those who meet him as a little more down-to-earth and less controlling than your average college football corporate chieftain these days – sort of like his in-state friend David Cutcliffe over in Durham. Because they’re unpretentious, such men can be underestimated these days. They shouldn’t be.”

He has won despite a transitional period

Satterfield is an offensive coach (think a spread, zone-read approach), but his ASU teams haven’t exactly been splashy as much as they’ve been solid, developing a reputation for a strong run game and effective defense.

Heading into Saturday’s game, Satterfield is 50-24 in six seasons as Appalachian State’s head coach, but that includes a 4-8 mark in his first season in 2013, when the program was still in the Football Championship Subdivision.

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Since moving up to the FBS and the Sun Belt in 2014, the Mountaineers have gone 34-6 in conference play (7-1 each of the past four seasons) with a 39-11 overall record since 2015. While ASU did have a rich football history in the FCS, such success has still been remarkable given how many programs have struggled upon immediately making the jump to the FBS. ASU is also 3-0 in bowl games during Satterfield’s tenure.

His teams have hung with the big boys

Among Appalachian State’s 11 losses since 2015: 

• 2015 at Clemson: 41-10. It was the only game that season ASU failed to score at least 27 points, and Clemson would go 14-1 and play for the national title.

• 2016 at Tennessee: 20-13 (OT). The Vols, ranked No. 9 at the time, trailed 13-3 at halftime and fought back to force overtime and win the season-opener.

• 2017 at Georgia: 31-10. The Mountaineers were only outgained 368 yards to 284 by a Bulldogs team that would go on to play for the national title.

• 2017 vs. Wake Forest: 20-19. The Demon Deacons blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt with five seconds left.

• 2018 at Penn State: 45-38 (OT). The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 10 and needed overtime to barely beat the Mountaineers, who scored 28 points in the fourth quarter. 

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Said Penn State coach James Franklin afterward: “Give App State all the credit in the world. I don’t know what’s in the water in Boone, North Carolina, but it seems like they’ve been doing this for a long time to whoever they play. It’s hard talking to a coach after a game like that. I just told him, I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but you guys do an unbelievable job.”

He once coached T.Y. Hilton

Satterfield was the offensive coordinator in 2010 and 2011 at Florida International, where Indianapolis Colts star receiver T.Y. Holton starred in college. Hilton totalled 131 receptions for 1,886 yards and 12 touchdowns in those two seasons while rushing for 406 yards and five TDs on 49 attempts.

Column: Brohm’s return to Louisville was always more sentimental than sensible

FIU went 15-11 and reached a bowl game in each of those two seasons, beating Louisville 24-17 in 2011, a game in which Hilton caught seven passes for 201 receiving yards and two TDs. After Satterfield left to return to Appalachian State as offensive coordinator for the 2012 season, FIU went 3-9 without Hilton under then-head coach Mario Cristobal.

His contract was extended recently

Perhaps sensing growing interest in Satterfield on the job market this year, Appalachian State announced a contract extension for him in September. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, that new contract included a low buyout “equal to (Satterfield’s) current contract year base salary,” which is $425,000 from now through the 2023 season. 

Satterfield does earn more than that “base salary” in compensation. He was set to be paid roughly $712,500 in 2018, not counting various bonuses he’d be due for the Mountaineers’ success, according to the Watauga Democrat in Boone.

While this was clearly a move to try to keep Satterfield at Appalachian State, the recent timing of it suggests there won’t be another contractual move still to come to try to keep him after the season. In other words, possible suitors like Louisville already know a number that probably won’t change.

From Wednesday: Louisville fails to land Brohm, its top football coaching candidate

Gentry Estes: 502-582-4205; gestes@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @Gentry_Estes. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/gentrye.