By Colby Gable
Sunday night, reports emerged that App State football coach Eli Drinkwitz agreed to take over at the University of Missouri after one season in Boone. Peter Thamel of Yahoo Sports confirmed the contract rumors last night, saying, “Drinkwitz replaces Odom, who was fired in the wake of a 6-6 season and a 25-25 overall record. Odom got Missouri bowl eligible in three of his four seasons but was fired by athletic director Jim Sterk immediately after this season. Sterk’s search had been underwhelming until Missouri’s contingent flew to Boone, North Carolina, on Saturday night to interview Drinkwitz. Reports named Army’s Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz and Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson among those under significant consideration. “
Mitchell Forde of MissouriRivals.com also confirmed the reports of Drinkwitz move, pending approval of the Board of Curators who most likely will allow the move to go forward. On the details of the search, Forde says, “Sunday, the two sides agreed on terms, though the details of the agreement have not yet been made public. Missouri will have to pay $1.7 million to buy Drinkwitz out of the remaining four years of his contract with Appalachian State. At the outset of the search, Sterk said he wanted a coach with head coaching experience and an offensive background. The 36-year-old Drinkwitz checks both of those boxes, although his experience is limited.”
Drinkwitz this season was earning Drinkwitz is earning $750,000 annually and has a five-year contract. He came to Boone from N.C. State, where he had been the offensive coordinator. His Mountaineer team was the first in Sun Belt history and the first FBS program in North Carolina to win 12 games in a season, as well as first in the conference to win against two Power Five opponents, North Carolina and South Carolina, in the same season.
The move comes as somewhat of a surprise to many Appalachian fans, especially considering Drinkwitz had specifically mentioned in a press conference earlier before the season that “This is not a stepping stone job. This is a top 25 job in college football.” After leading Appalachian to one a 12-1 season and a Sun Belt Championship title with NFL prospect-caliber players, Drinkwitz proved this right, so the move to a struggling Missouri team who barely finished with a .500 win percentage and sit along the bottom of the SEC East is certainly a surprising one.
Appalachian’s Chancellor Sheri Everts released a statement today, saying, “Appalachian State wishes Coach Drinkwitz all the best. Under his leadership, Appalachian State Football has enjoyed unprecedented national rankings. We know he will continue a successful career, and we will always call him a Mountaineer.”
Doug Gillin, the school’s Athletic Director, commented, “Our football team has made history all season long, and we thank Coach Drinkwitz for leading this program to new heights as we aspire to be the best Group of Five program in college football. We wish Eli, Lindsey and the girls all the best.”
As for the future of Appalachian State football, Offensive Line Coach Shawn Clark has been named the interim Head Coach and is expected to serve as the team’s HC in the New Orleans Bowl on December 21st. Several players including current Center Noah Hannon, as well as App State fan accounts on social media have raised support to hire Clark as a possible replacement for the team’s next Head Coach in 2020. Clark was an All-America at Appalachian State, and the college football coaching veteran, was named the assistant head coach before the 2019 season. App State’s offensive line ranked in the top 25 nationally in both rushing yards per game and fewest sacks allowed for the fifth straight year, and Clark was the offensive play-caller in a 45-13 victory against Middle Tennessee in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. This season will have been his fourth coaching the offensive line at his alma mater.
Clark also commented on the change, saying, “I would like to thank Chancellor Everts and Doug Gillin for trusting me with the opportunity to coach this team. I love our team, and we will do everything we can to send off our seniors in the right way and give our young men a great bowl experience.”
Seeing as how the next hire will be the school’s third coach in the last three years, hopefully the Mountaineers can make their next hire one which will last, as the constant change in coaching staff may have impacts on aspects such as recruiting and building progress on the field from the previous season.