NEW ORLEANS — Appalachian State has found its next head football coach.
The school’s board of trustees met Thursday morning to approve a contract for Eli Drinkwitz, a hire that was first reported by the Winston-Salem Journal. The 35-year-old coach has spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at N.C. State.(tncms-asset)25369ec2-fefa-11e8-bfc6-00163ec2aa770 —(/tncms-asset)
The App State athletics department announced the move right after the meeting, making Drinkwitz the 21st football coach in Mountaineers history. He is taking over for Scott Satterfield, who was hired by Louisville after six seasons at App State that featured three bowl wins and three conference championships.
“My family and I are excited to embrace and build upon the proud tradition of Appalachian State football,” Drinkwitz said in a statement issued by the university. “I am thankful to the Board of Trustees, Chancellor (Sheri) Everts, Doug Gillin (App State’s athletics director) and the entire App Nation for the opportunity to be the head coach at this great university.
“This is a special time for App Nation, and we will work tirelessly to uphold the championship tradition,” Drinkwitz said.
His contract with App State is a five-year deal that goes through the 2023 football season. He will make $750,000 a year — a base salary of $425,000 and an additional $325,000 that will be divided into monthly payments. He’s also eligible for incentive pay for team academic and athletic achievements as detailed in his contract.
The buyout for the contract is the base salary multiplied by the years remaining on the contract.
Drinkwitz also has a assistant coach salary pool of $1.35 million.
“I’m excited to welcome Eliah and his family to App Nation,” Gillin said in the statement. “The App State football program is in great position to continue its championship ways. Eliah is committed to excellence academically, competitively, socially and to the well-being of our student-athletes.
“There was significant interest in our process throughout a national search. Eliah has great character and a clear vision for the future of Mountaineer football,” Gillin said. “I’m excited about the future of our football program.”
Appalachian replaces the coach who formed the spread offense it runs today with a rising star in the coaching ranks.
During his nine years as a college coach, Drinkwitz has been associated with high-scoring teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. His career includes stops at Auburn (2011), Arkansas State (2012-13) and Boise State (2014-15) before the past three seasons with the Wolfpack.
In Raleigh, Drinkwitz directed an offense that saw increased performance every season. N.C. State went from averaging 27 points a game in 2016 to 35.6 this season. The Wolfpack’s average total offense increased from nearly 417 yards per game to more than 471 yards over the same time span.
Drinkwitz also developed quarterback Ryan Finley into an NFL draft prospect. Finley passed for 3,789 yards and 24 touchdowns during the 2018 regular season. He has thrown for at least 3,000 yards in all three of his N.C. State seasons under Drinkwitz.(tncms-asset)8c4a2168-fefc-11e8-a6be-00163ec2aa771 —(/tncms-asset)
The start of Drinkwitz’s college coaching career coincided with the rise of Coach Gus Malzahn of Auburn. Drinkwitz joined Auburn’s staff in 2010 as a quality-control assistant when Malzahn was the team’s offensive coordinator.
In his first season, Drinkwitz helped the Tigers win the 2010 Bowl Championship Series national championship behind quarterback Cam Newton, who is now with the Carolina Panthers.
Drinkwitz stayed at Auburn through 2011 before becoming the running backs coach at Arkansas State on Malzahn’s staff in 2012. Malzahn coached the Red Wolves for just one season before returning to Auburn as head coach. Drinkwitz, however, was retained by new Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin in 2013 and was named the offensive coordinator.
Harsin took the Boise State coaching job in 2014, and Drinkwitz went along to be his tight ends coach. He became the team’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach the next season. Under Drinkwitz in 2015, the Boise State offense averaged 39.1 points per game and 501.3 yards per game.
Drinkwitz was hired by N.C. State in 2016 to replace Matt Canada.
A 14-year coaching veteran, Drinkwitz spent his first five seasons as a high school coach in Arkansas.
He inherits the third-youngest team in the nation, loaded with talent for the 2019 season. The Mountaineers leading passer (Zac Thomas, 1,862 yards and 18 touchdowns), leading rusher (Darrynton Evans, 1,709 yards and seven touchdowns) and leading receiver (Corey Sutton, 695 yards and eight touchdowns) are all sophomores.
As a whole, Appalachian will lose only four full-time starters for next season.