Football coaching changes aplenty for NC colleges

ECU hires a new AD and coach, Charlotte zeroes in on a candidate, and App State needs to replace Scott Satterfield

East Carolina hired James Madison’s Mike Houston as its next football coach, replacing Scottie Montgomery. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP, File)

A week after North Carolina got it spinning with the hiring of Mack Brown, the college football coaching carousel is still spinning at full speed at state schools.

Over the past six days, East Carolina has fired and hired a coach, Charlotte has finally filled its vacancy, and Appalachian State has been forced to seek a new leader now that Louisville has officially snatched Scott Satterfield away from his alma mater.

It’s a whirlwind that began last Thursday with the announcement that Scottie Montgomery had been relieved of his duties at ECU just 48 hours before he was supposed to lead the Pirates into their season finale at NC State.

The reason for his abrupt dismissal was assumed to be the announcement that ECU’s primary target to replace Montgomery — James Madison’s Mike Houston — was close to becoming the next coach at Charlotte.

Apparently, Houston was as interested in the Pirates as they were in him, because within hours of Montgomery’s firing, Charlotte issued a statement saying that it had withdrawn its offer to the 2016 FCS national coach of the year.

It took until Monday for all the I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed — and for ECU to hire Southern Mississippi’s Jon Gilbert as its athletic director — but eventually the deal was done and a new era of Pirates football has begun.

Houston was formally introduced in Greenville on Tuesday.

“As soon as I was contacted by East Carolina University, there was no doubt what my desire was and that was to be the head football coach here,” said the 47-year-old western N.C. native, who signed a five-year contract. “This is a job that I identified, in my past, as being somewhere that I would pursue trying to have this opportunity.

“Last year, in 2017, when my team at JMU had the opportunity to come here and open up the season, it just was incredible seeing a jam-packed stadium that was rocking at the beginning of the ball game. I look forward to being back in this stadium and conducting itself that way at the beginning of this fall. That’s how this stuff played out. I’m glad it played out the way it did to this end because this is where I want to be.”

And as he mentioned, he’s already experienced what it’s like to have won at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

A year after leading his team to the FCS national championship, Houston brought the Dukes to Greenville and put a 34-14 beating on the Pirates, a game in which they rolled up more than 600 yards in total offense and intercepted three passes.

JMU went on to play for the FCS national championship again that season, losing in the final to North Dakota State.

In three years with the Dukes, Houston compiled a 37-6 record. His overall career record is 80-25 with six conference championships in eight seasons, including previous stops at The Citadel and Lenoir-Rhyne.

“He left Division II Lenoir-Rhyne and went onto The Citadel, had a successful career there, went on to James Madison, won a national championship there and had a great career track record. He hasn’t skipped a step,” newly hired AD Gilbert said. “That’s one of the things that really impressed me about Coach Houston and his tenure.

“He’s been a high school coach. He’s been a Division II coach. He’s been a I-AA coach and now he’s moving onto the East Carolina Pirates. I think that is really one of the most impressive things about his track record. I know that he places a high value on culture, as do I. I know that he will bring a great culture to our football program.”

While filled the void at ECU, his decision sent Charlotte back to square one in its search for a candidate to replace Brad Lambert, the only coach its six-year-old program has ever had.

According to published reports, the 49ers have settled on Austin Peay’s Will Healy. He takes on a program that rebounded to 5-7 this season, a year after losing 11 of 12 games in 2017.

At age 33, Healy is one of the youngest coaches in college football and while his resume isn’t all that impressive at first glance, he is considered a rising star in the profession.

A former quarterback who led Richmond to the FCS national championship in 2008, Healy was an assistant at Chattanooga before getting the job at Austin Peay. Although his record was just 13-21 in three seasons, including a 5-6 mark this year, the Governors had won just once in 46 games before his arrival.

He was named the winner of the Eddie Robinson Award as the FCS Coach of the Year for leading Austin Peay to eight wins in 2017.

Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield left his alma mater to take over at Louisville. (John Amis / AP Photo)

Satterfield, meanwhile, is the current Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Mountaineers to their third straight league title and fourth consecutive bowl appearance since making the transition to FBS status.

A former starting quarterback at App State, Satterfield’s name has been mentioned for several prominent openings this year, including UNC. He emerged as the leading candidate to replace Bobby Petrino at Louisville after former Cardinals’ quarterback Jeff Brohm decided to keep his current job at Purdue.

Satterfield’s record in six seasons with the Mountaineers was 51-24.

“It’s been a great ride,” Satterfield said Saturday after his team beat Louisiana-Lafayette in the inaugural Sun Belt championship game. “It’s been unbelievable to win all these games.”

Among the names being mentioned as possible successors are current App State staff members Bryan Brown (defensive coordinator), Shawn Clark (co-offensive coordinator) and Mark Ivey (assistant head coach and defensive line coach), Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott, NC State offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford and former Mountaineers running back and current Wisconsin assistant coach John Settle.