Appalachian State's Latest Coaching Loss Hits Close to Home

John Hooper@soconjohn22Correspondent IIDecember 23, 2011

Mark Speir Became The 13th Head Coach In WCU Football History On Thursday. Speir Spent The Previous Nine Seasons As An Assistant At Appalachian State.
Mark Speir Became The 13th Head Coach In WCU Football History On Thursday. Speir Spent The Previous Nine Seasons As An Assistant At Appalachian State.

Former Appalachian State defensive line, running backs and inside linebackers coach Mark Speir, who spent nine seasons in Boone, was hired to become the next head coach of Western Carolina, it was announced Thursday.

Appalachian State, which has seen long-time assistants Scott Satterfield, Shawn Elliott and John Wiley all leave for FBS jobs, now has lost another in Speir. The latest departure from head coach Jerry Moore's staff hits particularly close to home, with Speir matriculating to arch-rival and league foe Western Carolina. The Mountaineers continue to be victimized by their own success, which has yielded six SoCon titles, three national titles and seven postseason appearances since 2005.

Now that Speir has departed for his first head coach job, Scot Sloan, ASU's defensive backs coach, has been named the recruiting coordinator. Speir's hire marks the fifth current NCAA Division I head coach with Appalachian State head coaching ties. He joins Mack Brown (Texas Head Coach), Ruffin McNeill (East Carolina Head Coach), Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech Head Coach) and Sparky Woods (VMI Head Coach) in that classification.

Former Appalachian State offensive assistant Scott Satterfield was a member of the greatest team in school history prior to the current seven-year run, quarterbacking the 1995 team to a perfect regular-season mark of 11-0 and a 12-1 overall mark on the campaign.

Satterfield and assistant coach Shawn Elliott, who coached both the tight ends and offensive line during his 13-year tenure (1996-2009) as an assistant coach at Appalachian State, was also a member of that 1995 squad. Satterfield spent his 10 seasons coaching wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks.


The two coaches were born and bred into the Appalachian State football family and both played significant roles in establishing what has become a football dynasty in the High Country of Boone, N.C.

With Appalachian State having trouble in their traditional power-I offense during the 2003 season, questions surrounded the program and the play-calling from Appalachian State's usually outwardly vocal fan base, which began to start calling for change. Some even murmured that it was time for a change at the top, despite the fact the football program was headed by the SoCon's all-time winningest head coach, Jerry Moore.

The 2003 season would also see another significant piece added the ASU championship puzzle with the hiring of Mark Speir to coach the running backs. The '03 season would see the emergence of one of the league's best freshman running backs in Alan Atwater. Also in the ranks was a third-string walk-on named Kevin Richardson, who would go on to become the school's all-time leading rusher.

Richardson's 2007 season remains the last 1,000-yard rushing performance at the running back position. Speir would go on to coach the defensive line, inside linebackers and was the team's recruiting coordinator during his nine seasons on the mountain.

During the spring of 2004, the Mountaineer coaching staff, namely Satterfield and Elliott, made trips to Morganton, West Virginia during spring practice. It took some convincing, but Elliott and Satterfield began to urge the veteran head coach to change to the 'trendy' new spread offense that had the nation a-buzz, particularly when watching the West Virginia Mountaineers, who had two of the most electrifying players in college football, in quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton.


The spread offense employed by Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia was different from most, as it used the run to set up the pass. A young Appalachian State team would finish 6-5 in the SoCon in 2004, posting the league's third-most potent offense (425.5 YPG) and the league's top passing attack (322.6 YPG) en route to finishing 6-5. The Mountaineers, however, missed the FCS postseason for the second season in a row.

The next season, history was made and ASU won its first of three national crowns with a 21-16 win over Northern Iowa. During that three-year period, ASU was nearly unbeatable, going 39-6, including a 17-game winning streak and a milestone victory for the FCS—a 34-32 win over No. 5 Michigan to open the 2007 season.

It would eventually lead to the break up of a staff that had seen so much success in both their respective careers as players, as well as during their coaching careers on the Appalachian State sidelines.

Shortly after the 2008 season, Satterfield was hired to take over as offensive coordinator at Toledo, where he spent two seasons before joining Mario Cristobal's coaching staff at Florida International in the same role. Elliott was lured away from the High Country by South Carolina's Steve Spurrier after the 2009 season, where he remains to this day and is lauded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the SEC.

John Wiley was another coach that spent 19 seasons at Appalachian State, serving as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach before moving on to coach with Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina.

What Mark Speir Brings To Western Carolina:


As folks began to prepare for the Christmas Holidays, Western Carolina was busy making plans for its football future as the school announced Mark Speir would become the 13th head coach at a Thursday morning press conference.

Speir, who has an impressive resume that includes stops at Clemson, Presbyterian, Western Carolina and Elon, comes to Cullowhee from Appalachian State where he has spent the past nine seasons. During that time, Speir served the ASU coaching staff in various roles including running backs coach (2004-07), defensive line coach (2006-10), inside linebackers coach (2011) and recruiting coordinator.

Speir had good coaching pedigree, having gotten his start at a place Jerry Moore knew all too well as Speir was a graduate assistant on the Clemson staff during the late 1980's. Speir spent time under legendary coach Danny Ford, who brought Clemson its only national title (1981) and is regarded alongside Frank Howard as the two greatest coaches to ever grace the sidelines in Memorial Stadium.

Speir also spent time under Ken Hatfield, who was Ford's successor. Hatfield and Ford played a role in Jerry Moore finding his way to Boone years earlier. Moore spent time at Clemson a couple of years after he had been fired at Texas Tech. He was allowed as much access as he wanted by good friend Danny Ford, and that would eventually lead to him being hired on as a volunteer assistant at Arkansas under Hatfield for a season before Appalachian State came calling in 1989.

So Speir had some good connections with Moore when coming on board with ASU in 2003. Speir was also familiar with the Southern Conference, having coached at Elon (2000-02) and at Western Carolina (1991-96). At Western Carolina in the early-mid 1990's, he was instrumental in bringing in what many consider to be one of the greatest running backs in WCU history, if not SoCon history, helping recruit Brad Hoover (1996-99). Hoover, of course, went on to have a nice NFL career.


Early in his career, Speir coached another running back that went on to become one of the greats in the Catamount annals, in Kevin Thigpen (1990-93). Thigpen currently ranks fifth on WCU's career rushing charts, finishing his career with 2,447 yards.

Speir, who served under Steve Hodgin during his first go-around in Cullowhee under Steve Hodgin, was a part of the last two Catamount football teams to seriously threaten a postseason bid in the 1992 and '93 campaigns, as the Catamounts posted a combined mark of 13-10 during those two campaigns and was on the sidelines for one of the greatest wins in Catamount football history in 1992, when WCU took down second-ranked Marshall, 38-30, at Whitmire Stadium.

In his Appalachian State tenure, Speir coached some greats on both sides of the football, including helping mold the school's all-time leading rusher, Kevin Richardson, in his first two seasons on the sidelines, while coaching two of the greatest defensive ends to ever play at Appalachian State in Jason Hunter and Marques Murrell in 2005 and '06.

Speir was instrumental for luring Lonnie Galloway to Boone in 2005. Galloway, of course, is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play at Western Carolina, and he was the signal-caller that led the Catamounts to that memorable Halloween win over Marshall back in '92. He was also instrumental in molding some great wideouts while at ASU, including William Mayfield and DaVon Fowlkes and helping develop the overall skills of the school's all-time greatest wideout in Brian Quick.

After ASU's third-straight national title in '07, Galloway moved on to become the passing game coordinator at West Virginia from 2008-10 and just finished up his first season at Wake Forest in the same role.

All that being said, Speir is likely to bring friend and fellow Clemson graduate Brad Glenn on staff in Cullowhee. Glenn was ASU's quarterbacks coach for three years while spending his other four seasons on the Mountain, coaching both wide receivers and tight ends.

More news is expected to come out concerning more potential changes between the two programs in the new year. We'll take a look at the domino effect and the polar opposites of these two football programs in western North Carolina in the past seven seasons in part two.


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