CCU defensive coordinator Matthews calls it a career

Coastal Carolina defensive coordinator Mickey Matthews announced Thursday his retirement from coaching.

“I want to thank everyone here at Coastal Carolina, not just the athletic department but the entire University,” Matthews said. “I certainly had a great time. (My wife) Kay and I are excited to start the next chapter of our lives. We wish nothing but the best for the football program and the University as a whole.”

Matthews, 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.

“It was great having Mickey as part of our staff these last two years,” said CCU head coach Joe Moglia. “In over 40 years of coaching college football, the impact he has had other peoples’ life is incredible. He had success everywhere he has coached and has earned a lot of respect in the coaching community. I wish him and Kay only the best as they transition to the next part of their lives.”

Prior to joining the Coastal Carolina staff, Matthews spent 15 seasons as head coach at James Madison (1999-2013) and led the Dukes to the 2004 NCAA I-AA (currently Football Championship Subdivision) Championship while earning national Coach of the Year honors 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 I-AA Championship in 1992 and reach the I-AA title game on three other occasions (1991, 1993 and 1995).

In his first season at Coastal (2016), the Chanticleer defense made dramatic improvements. The Chants went from allowing 198 rushing yards per game to 123.7 while its total yards per game went from 416.3 to 331.8. Perhaps CCU’s biggest improvement came in the form of creating turnovers. The Chants created 29 turnovers (21 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries) compared to just 16 the previous year (8 INTS, 8 FR). In fact, Coastal scored seven defensive touchdowns in 2016 – the second-best total in all Division I behind Alabama’s 10. Linebacker Alex Scearce led the way, earning All-American honors and finishing 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 12.0 tackles per game in Sun Belt games, was second in the conference overall in tackles per game and earned second team All-Sun Belt.

Matthews posted a 109-71 record at James Madison, won three conference titles (1999 and 2004 while JMU was a member of the Atlantic 10 and 2008 as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association) and is the winningest coach in James Madison history. In addition to winning the national championship, Matthews led JMU to another monumental win in 2010 when the Dukes knocked off #13 Virginia Tech, 21-16, in Blacksburg to become just the second FCS program to defeat a nationally-ranked FBS program. Overall, he had only two losing seasons (2001 and 2002) in his 15 years at the helm and reached the playoffs six times. Also, two JMU players — linebacker Derrick Lloyd (2001) and defensive end Arthur Moats (2009) — won the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given annually to the top defensive player in the FCS each year.

Prior to taking over the JMU program, Matthews was named defensive coordinator at Baylor after a successful stint as an assistant coach at Georgia. However, he only spent three months — January to March — 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).

At Georgia (1996-98), Matthews helped the Bulldogs win the 1998 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the 1997 Outback Bowl. His 1998 secondary featured Bronco Nagurski Award winner and NFL first-round pick Champ Bailey, led the Southeastern Conference in interceptions and ranked 16th nationally in scoring defense (17.2 points per game).

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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