Head coach Eliah Drinkwitz leaves App State, Clark named interim head coach


Lynette Files

Former head coach Eliah Drinkwitz embraces App State chancellor Sheri Everts after defeating UNC.

Silas Albright and Moss Brennan

Athletic director Doug Gillin announced in a press release Monday that he has started a search to replace former App State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Pending Board of Trustees approval, Shawn Clark will serve as the team’s interim head coach, effective immediately.

“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,” Gillin said in the press release. “We wish Eli, Lindsey and the girls all the best.

Clark is a 1998 graduate of App State and was the assistant head coach in 2019.

“I would like to thank Chancellor Everts and Doug Gillin for trusting me with the opportunity to coach this team,” Clark said in the press release. “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.”

The school announced Drinkwitz was leaving to accept a coaching position at another university.

According to multiple reports, the University of Missouri has reached an agreement with Drinkwitz to make him the Tigers next head coach.

Drinkwitz led the Mountaineers to a 12-1 record that included wins at North Carolina and South Carolina in his first season as a head coach. App State also achieved the highest rankings from the AP, Coaches and College Football Playoff polls in school and Sun Belt history with Drinkwitz at the helm. 

The Mountaineers will have their third head coach in three seasons after Scott Satterfield took the job at Louisville following last year’s Sun Belt Championship. 

Drinkwitz received $425,000 base salary from App State in his first year as head coach. He also received a bonus of $50,000 for winning the Sun Belt Championship; a bonus of $25,000 for winning at least nine games; and a $25,000 bonus for appearing in the championship game.

Players reacted on Twitter to initial reports of Drinkwitz leaving App State. Junior defensive linemen Demetrius Taylor wrote on Twitter that “coaches don’t matter,” and that it’s more about the players play.

Junior wide receiver Malik Williams, junior running back and Sun Belt Championship game MVP Darrynton Evans, and redshirt freshman running back Camerun Peoples also weighed in.

Drinkwitz replaces former Mizzou head coach Barry Odom, who coached the Tigers to a 25-25 record from 2016-2019. Missouri appeared in bowls in 2017 and 2018 but lost both of them and went 6-6 in 2019 before Odom was let go. The Tigers haven’t won more than four SEC games since 2014. 

“I’ve gotten to know Eliah over the past few years and am so impressed by his vision, work ethic and ability to relate to all. His abilities show through in the ways his team plays,” Odom said about Drinkwitz when he was hired at App State. “He sees the big picture and will put his kids in a position to be successful in every area of their lives.”

The news of Drinkwitz’s departure comes as a bit of a surprise to some Mountaineers fans who recall when the head coach said App State was “not a stepping stone job” in his introductory press conference. 

The coaching rumors were brought up during the Sun Belt championship postgame press conference on Saturday.

“I hate to make this comparison, but the President of the United States always says ‘fake news’ and you don’t believe about it until you start seeing it about yourself,” Drinkwitz said. “There’s a lot fake news and rumors and stuff going on out there. Our focus this week was being 1-0.”

Drinkwitz went on to say that he and his family “love it here” and that they were excited at what they were doing at App State.

“But at the same time every opportunity I owe it to my family to see if that’s something  we’re interested in,” Drinkwitz said. “I’m not in any hurry to leave. We feel strongly we’re building something special here that can be sustained for a long period of time.”

An interim head coach that will lead the Mountaineers in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21 has not yet been announced.

Last year assistant head coach and defensive line coach Mark Ivey served as App State’s interim head coach after Satterfield took the Louisville job. Ivey led the Mountaineers to a 45-13 victory over Middle Tennessee State in the R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl.

Senior center Noah Hannon shared his thoughts on assistant head coach Shawn Clark.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Corey Sutton, who tore his ACL against Texas State, also chimed in on Twitter.

“Appalachian State wishes Coach Drinkwitz all the best,” Chancellor Sheri Everts said in the press release. “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.”