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How Louisville will rely on Deion Branch, skeleton coaching staff vs. Cincinnati in Fenway Bowl

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Louisville and Cincinnati are set to face off in the Fenway Bowl on Saturday in Boston, but the college football coaching carousel has left the Cardinals’ staff dismantled ahead of the game.  

In a unique turn of events, Scott Satterfield left Louisville to become Cincinnati’s head coach less than 24 hours after the two programs were selected to face each other in the Fenway Bowl. Luke Fickell had left Cincinnati for Wisconsin in November, creating the opening.

BENDER: Luke Fickell to Wisconsin: Great timing, great hire as Badgers aim to take next step

Rather than a top assistant filling in until Jeff Brohm takes over as the Cardinals’ full-time head coach, Louisville was forced to dig deep into its staff to fill the void.

Director of player development Deion Branch  — the MVP of Super Bowl 39 — will coach the team in the bowl game.

Why is Deion Branch coaching Louisville in the Fenway Bowl?

Both programs are thin on the sideline with Satterfield not coaching Cincinnati until after the bowl game, but Louisville is stretched especially thin.

After Satterfield took a handful of assistants with him to Cincinnati, Cardinals offensive coordinator Lance Taylor was hired as Western Michigan’s head coach and co-defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff left to become Auburn’s defensive coordinator.

The departures forced Louisville to turn to Branch, who wasn’t a regular member of the coaching staff this season. Branch is overseeing all preparations ahead of the Fenway Bowl (a short period considering the bowl is one of the earliest on the schedule), and he’ll be in charge on gameday at Fenway Park.

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Louisville is also turning to first-year tight ends coach Josh Stapp as its offensive coordinator for the game. Stapp was briefly Georgia State’s offensive coordinator, but he left for Louisville before ever stepping on the sideline and doesn’t have much play-calling experience.

Defensive line coach Mark Ivey will be the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator against the Bearcats. A handful of quality control coaches are stepping up to fill position coach roles.

Why did Scott Satterfield leave Louisville?

Cincinnati hired Satterfield as Fickell’s replacement on Dec. 5. 

Satterfield doesn’t have a local connection to Cincinnati. A North Carolina native who coached for many years at Appalachian State, Satterfield’s only tie to Ohio was a year on Toledo’s coaching staff.

But with the Bearcats making the jump from the AAC to the Big 12, Cincinnati was one of the most attractive jobs on the market.

MORE: College football coaching carousel: Every FBS coaching change in 2022

The relationship between Satterfield and Louisville fans was often an awkward one. He infamously apologized to the fan base after interviewing for the South Carolina head coaching job in 2020.

Satterfield’s interview process with Cincinnati was kept under wraps, but his exit signals that he knew he wasn’t a perfect fit at Louisville.

Satterfield may also be resetting his career clock, in a sense. His job was thought to be in danger at Louisville this year until a midseason win streak, and he would’ve been under pressure to show some progress in 2023.

By bolting for Cincinnati, Satterfield likely won’t have to worry about his job security for at least a couple years.


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