Clark replaces Drinkwitz, named App State coach

Appalachian State promoted former player Shawn Clark to be its next next head football coach. Clark was the offensive line coach under Eliah Drinkwitz, who left last week to coach Missouri. (Tim Cowie / Courtesy of Appalachian State)

For 29 seasons between 1989 and 2018, Appalachian State had exactly two head football coaches.
Jerry Moore. Scott Satterfield.

That’s it.

When Shawn Clark was introduced as the Mountaineers’ new leader last Friday, he became the App State’s third head coach in the last 12 months.

Clark, 44, follows Satterfield and Eliah Drinkwitz, who parlayed this season’s 12-1 record into a Power 5 job and significant raise at Missouri after just one year as a college head coach.

In announcing Clark’s hiring, athletic director Doug Gillin said he hopes the former App State offensive lineman will help bring back some stability and continuity to a program that has historically been one of the most consistent in college football — even through the challenging transition from FCS to the higher level of competition in the FBS.

“We got the right guy at the right time to lead this university,” Gillin said.

Clark had already been appointed as the Mountaineers’ interim coach and was in the process of preparing the team for its New Orleans Bowl date with UAB this Saturday before being given the job on a permanent basis.

Not only does he represent a bridge to the program’s proud past, having played for Moore from 1994-98, but he has also been an important constant through its current series of leadership changes.

Clark has spent the past four seasons as the offensive line coach at his alma mater, also serving as co-coordinator for the running game under Satterfield and as assistant head coach under Drinkwitz in 2019.

During his time in Boone, the Mountaineers have compiled a 42-10 record, won four straight Sun Belt Conference championships and been ranked among the nation’s top 25 in each of the past two seasons.

The most important asset he brings to the job beyond his coaching resume, which also includes stops at Louisville, Eastern Kentucky, Purdue and Kent State, is his intimate knowledge of the football culture within the successful program he’s inheriting.

“There’s a foundation that’s been established here, a foundation by all that have worn the black and gold, a foundation that’s spanned generations, and I’m humbled to be a part of the tradition so many here respect,” Clark said during his introductory press conference. “I’ve inherited a great program. … A program that I’ve been proud of being a part of as a player and as a coach.”

While Clark pledged to “continue to give my all for Appalachian State University,” his former boss Drinkwitz has moved on to what he hopes will be bigger and better things.

His hiring at Missouri completes a meteoric rise from offensive coordinator at NC State making $450,000 two seasons ago, to first-time college head coach in 2019 to the leader of a high-profile SEC program with a six-year, $4 million-a-year contract.

Rumors of Power 5 job offers began swirling around Drinkwitz in the week leading up to the Mountaineers’ victory against Louisiana in the Sun Belt Championship Game on Dec. 7. While he said that he wasn’t actively seeking other employment, he was refreshingly candid at his postgame press conference when asked about his plans for the future.

“Every opportunity,” he said, “I owe it to my family to see if that’s something that we’re interested in.”

Apparently Missouri fit that description, because immediately after coaching App State to the conference title and attending his daughter’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” he began meeting with Missouri officials. He was then flown to Columbia for an interview, where he accepted the job.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and opportunities of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of an opportunity,” Drinkwitz said upon his second introduction in as many years. “For this to occur, it took a lot of a lot of things to come together at the right time. But I know in my heart and in my soul and in my spirit this is the right place for me and my family at the right time for Mizzou football.”

Back in Boone, AD Gillin didn’t have to look far to find his own right man in the right place at the right time. It was a quick process aided by the fact that he just went through a similar search a year ago.

“We wanted to do a quick search, but we wanted to get the right person to lead this program,” Gillin said. “I wanted to make sure we identified the coach in an expeditious manner so that (the team) could get busy to go win us another bowl game. We really worked hard to make that happen.”