The Coastal Carolina football team has lost a national champion off its coaching staff.
Mickey Matthews announced his retirement from coaching on Thursday.
Matthews, 64, a three-time National Coach of the Year who helped two programs win national championships, spent the last two seasons as the Chanticleers’ defensive coordinator.
“I don't know if old football coaches ever retire,” Matthews said. “But I've done this for 42 years, that's probably long enough to do anything. It becomes time, and you know when it's time, and it was time.”
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Matthews said he plans to remain in the area with his wife, Kay. Their son, Clayton, opened a business called Peace, Love and Little Donuts and they are involved in the business with him. Matthews worked for ESPN as color commentator and did some radio work when he was out of coaching in 2014 and ’15 and is interested in going back into media.
“I'm really not sure what the future holds,” Matthews said. “I did television for two years and I really enjoyed that. I thought about doing some radio around, and I'd like to stay around college football. Maybe that's my comfort zone.”
Prior to joining head coach Joe Moglia’s Coastal Carolina staff, Matthews spent 15 seasons as head coach at James Madison (1999-2013) and led the Dukes to the 2004 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then Division I-AA) title. He earned national Coach of the Year honors three times at James Madison in 1999 (Eddie Robinson), 2004 (American Football Coaches Association) and 2008 (Eddie Robinson and Liberty Mutual).
As defensive coordinator at Marshall, he helped the Thundering Herd win the FCS championship in 1992 and reach the title game on three other occasions in 1991, 1993 and 1995.
“I am honored to have had Mickey as part of our staff,” Moglia said. “He brought tremendous experience that we all were able to benefit from and I am grateful for that and wish him all the best going forward.”
Moglia has been quick to hire replacements for departing coaches in his six years at CCU, and expects to soon name a new defensive coordinator. He keeps a file of potential assistants and coordinators by position and by recruiting area, and was informed by Matthews in advance of his announcement Thursday that he was considering retirement.
Moglia said he is looking both at his current assistants and outside the program for a new defensive coordinator. “I am ready to move quickly in this situation and any situation, but I’m not going to move quickly if I don’t have the right person,” Moglia said..
In Matthews’ first season at Coastal (2016), the Chanticleer defense made dramatic improvements.
The Chants went from allowing 198 rushing yards per game to 123 while their total yards per game went from 416 to 332. The Chants also created 29 turnovers with 21 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries compared to just 16 turnovers the previous year. Coastal’s seven defensive touchdowns in 2016 were the second most in all Division I behind Alabama’s 10.
Linebacker Alex Scearce earned All-America honors and finished sixth in the Buck Buchanan Award voting as the nation's top defensive player in the FCS.
This past season, Coastal’s defense finished strong in its first year in the Sun Belt Conference. The unit held down the top two rushing offenses in the league, allowing under 300 yards of total offense in wins over Idaho and Georgia Southern. Shane Johnson had a league-best 12 tackles per game in Sun Belt games, was second in the conference overall in tackles per game and earned second team All-Sun Belt honors.
Matthews posted a 109-71 record at James Madison to be the winningest football coach in school history and won three conference titles – in 1999 and 2004 while JMU was a member of the Atlantic 10 and 2008 as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
In addition to the national title, Matthews led JMU to another monumental win in 2010 when the Dukes knocked off No. 13 Virginia Tech, 21-16, in Blacksburg, Va., to become just the second FCS program to defeat a nationally-ranked Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program.
Overall, he had only two losing seasons (2001 and 2002) in his 15 years at the JMU helm and reached the playoffs six times.Two JMU players – linebacker Derrick Lloyd (2001) and defensive end Arthur Moats (2009) – won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive players in FCS.
James Madison was 3-8 in 1998 and in his first year Matthews led the Dukes to an 8–4 record, an Atlantic 10 title and the school's first postseason appearance in four years.
Prior to taking over the JMU program, Matthews was named defensive coordinator at Baylor after a successful stint as an assistant coach at Georgia from 1996-98. However, he only spent three months with the Bears before being named head coach with the Dukes.
Matthews was additionally the defensive coordinator at Texas State (1988-1989) and Marshall (1990-1995), and was an assistant at Houston (1986), Texas Christian (1987), UTEP (1982-85), his alma mater West Texas A&M (1981) and Kansas State (1978-89), and coached at high schools in Texas for three seasons.
Matthews was a four-year letterman as a halfback (1972-75) and received his Bachelor of Arts in Education from West Texas A&M in 1976. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. In addition to son Clayton, Matthews and his wife have a daughter (Meredith) and two grandchildren (Jackson and Taylor).