His first year saw Coastal's defense make 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 -- 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.
Prior to joining the Coastal Carolina staff, Matthews, who was a color analyst for ESPN the last two years (2014 and 2015), 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). He additionally helped Marshall win the I-AA Championship in 1992 while the Herd played in the I-AA title game in 1991, 1993 and 1995.
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.
A total of eight JMU players received player of the year awards. Curtis Keaton was league Offensive Player of the Year and Chris Morant Defender of the Year in 1999; Lloyd was co-Defender of the Year in 2001; Tony LeZotte was league Defender of the Year in 2005 and 2007; Akeem Jordan was league Defender of the Year, runner-up for the Buchanan Award and National Defender of the Year by College Sporting News in 2006; Rodney Landers was league Offensive Player of the Year as well as finishing third in the Walter Payton Award voting and Scotty McGee league Specialist of the Year in 2008; and Moats was league Defender of the Year in 2009.
Prior to joining James Madison, the Dukes were 3-8. In his first year, Matthews turned the program around in one season as he led JMU to an 8-4 record, an Atlantic 10 title and the program's first playoff berth since 1995. In the 2004 championship season, JMU was 13-2 and the first team to reach the Division I-AA title game with three road wins. JMU won at Lehigh (14-13), at Furman (14-13) and at William & Mary (48-34) and beat Montana (31-21) for the national crown. The 13 wins set a team season record. JMU's 2004 losses were to nationally-ranked Division I-A West Virginia and to a William & Mary team it later beat during the playoffs. The Dukes beat four nationally ranked teams during the regular season.
For his team's success in 2004, Matthews was voted Virginia Coach of the Year by the state's sports information directors and the Norfolk and Portsmouth sports clubs, Division I-AA Coach of the Year by the All-America Football Foundation, and recipient of the Amarillo (Texas) Chamber of Commerce's Achievement Award.
JMU reached the 2006 playoffs while going 9-3 and 2007 post-season play while going 8-4. For his effort, Matthews was the Richmond Touchdown Club's Virginia Coach of the Year.
In 2008, the Dukes lost their opener at Duke but went on to a 10-1 regular-season record and were the top seed in the NCAA playoffs. JMU tied its team record with 12 straight wins, set a team mark for regular-season wins and was the nation's top-ranked team from late September through the end of the regular season. The Dukes played three playoff games at home and reached the national semifinals.
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).
While serving as defensive coordinator at Marshall, Matthews made an immediate impact on the program as the Thundering Herd's defense ranked last in the Southern Conference in total defense prior to his arrival. He then directed a unit that led the SoCon in total defense in four of his six years, finishing third in the nation once and second once. Also, his 1993 unit led the nation in scoring defense (11.2 ppg). The Thundering Herd posted a 62-20 record during his tenure, including a 15-4 mark in the playoffs while winning the 1992 NCAA I-AA National Championship, being national runner-up in 1991, 1993 and 1995 and reaching the semifinal in 1994.
From 1981-1999, Matthews had stints at five institutions in Texas. He was the defensive coordinator at Texas State from 1988-89 and his unit led the Southland Conference in pass defense both seasons. In 1986 at Houston and 1987 at Texas Christian, Matthews helped the Cougars (outside linebackers coach) and the Horned Frogs (secondary coach) lead the Southwest Conference in pass defense while ranking second nationally in total defense each year. In three years at Texas El Paso (1982-85), Matthews coached four all-conference players. In his first full-time coaching stop -- 1981 at his alma mater West Texas A&M -- Matthews served as secondary coach and the Buffaloes led the Missouri Valley Conference in every major defensive category.
Matthews began his collegiate coaching career at Kansas State, serving as running backs coach for the 1978 and `79 seasons. He also had coaching stops at Lamar Consolidated High School (1976 -77) and Texas City High School (1980).
Matthews was a four-year letterman as a halfback (1972-75) and received his Bachelor of Arts in Education from the school in 1976. He was inducted into the West Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. He is married to the former Kay Bulger. They have a daughter (Meredith), a son (Clayton) and two grandchildren (Jackson and Taylor).