Mathews named new football coach

Courtesy of Media Services
All Weevil -- New football coach Gwaine Matthews speaks with Athletic director Alvin Early at the April 13 press conference.
Will Collins
Staff Writer

   University of Arkansas at Monticello Chancellor Jack Lassiter announced at a press conference in Little Rock the hiring of former Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive coordinator Gwaine Mathews as UAM's 24th head football coach.

   Named after Louisiana State University All-American Gawaine Debetta, Mathews is a 38-year-old native of New Orleans, La. Mathews and his wife Angel are raising 17-year-old daughter Brittany and 14-year-old son Brishen as they become part of the UAM family.

   Mathews walked on at Southeastern Louisiana University due to a high school knee injury before he transferred to Delta State University, where he played both ways on the field at the positions of defensive back and running back while earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He lettered as a defensive back for the Statesmen from 1986-88 and earned All-Gulf South Conference accolades in 1987. He also garnered Academic All-Gulf South Conference honors in 1988.

   Mathews later went on to play in the Canadian League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for two years before going back to Delta State. He worked as a graduate assistant coach while taking classes for his master’s degree. He earned degrees in 1992 in social science education and health, physical education and recreation.

   Mathews began his coaching career in 1992 as the head coach of De La Salle High School in New Orleans. As the head coach for seven seasons, Mathews guided the 5A program to the state playoffs in 1997, the school’s first playoff appearance in 30 years.

   “To me coaching ball is coaching ball,” Mathews said. “It don’t matter whether you are coaching high school, college or pee wee; coaching is coaching.”

   In 2000, Mathews went back to Delta State as the defensive coordinator of the country’s best defense. Delta State’s defense was ranked No. 1 in rush defense, sacks and tackles for loss when they won the 2000 NCAA Division II national championship with a 14-1 season record. Mathews spent the past two seasons at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and previously served as the defensive coordinator at North Alabama too. Some of his coaching influences include Red Parker, Don “Bubba” Skelton, Steve Campbell and his Dad. Mathews succeeds Gregg Ricono, who resigned after three seasons and a 12-20 record to become the offensive coordinator at Arkansas Tech.

   “We believe Gwaine Mathews is a perfect fit for our university,” Lassiter said. “He brings a wealth of experience and the necessary drive to be a successful head coach. His commitment to academics is second to none and we know that he will emphasize hard work not only on the field, but also in the classroom. Having been a national champion at Delta State, he knows what it takes to win and we are confident his winning experience will translate into success at UAM.”

   Athletics director Alvy Early called Matthews "a high-energy individual who will get out into the community and engage the community."

Courtesy of Media Services

Mathews Family -- Brittany, Gwaine, Angel and Brishen

   “He is a tireless recruiter who has been around a number of great coaches throughout his career. He is a serious student of the game with a lot of big game experience," Early said. "I can’t help but be impressed with his credentials and his experience with taking two Gulf South Conference teams to national championship games. He has great intensity, a tremendous work ethic, and a passion for success both on and off the field that will help our student-athletes achieve greater results in game situations and in the classroom.”

   Mathews said he cannot wait to start working at UAM.

   “The first thing I want to do is meet with the existing coaching staff and assemble a staff from there,” he said. “It is an unusual situation in that I have people I want to bring in, but it’s late in the season. I want to get a staff in place as quickly as possible without rushing the process. My goal is to get the staff in place so we can get our players on the field by April 15, but we’re not going to rush to achieve that goal. We’re going to wait and make sure that I can get a staff in place that has a shot at winning this conference.”

   “Academic success will be honored at UAM just as much as game success,” said Mathews. “We will institute more stringent rules that will result in better academic results for our student-athletes.”

   Mathews inherits a UAM team that posted a 6-5 record and finished fourth in the Gulf South Conference with a 5-4 league mark. The Weevils return All-South Region wide receiver Von Mixon, who broke the UAM single-season receiving record in 2004.

   “Von is an outstanding player,” Mathews said. “My contacts in the conference run deep, and the people I have talked to say Von is an incredible talent. Some players can put up great numbers without being a special player, but that’s not the case with Von. He’s one of the top players in the league and I’m looking forward to coaching him.”


    Adviser's note: Media Services contributed to this article.  

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