During his 13 seasons, Mickey Matthews has firmly established James Madison University football among the nation's leading Football Championship Subdivision programs. While becoming the winningest coach in JMU football history, he has led the Dukes to an NCAA championship (2004) and to five other playoff appearances (1999, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011).
Matthews has an 96-61 (.611) JMU record and during the 2008 season surpassed Challace McMillin's (1972-84) program record for wins. McMillin, JMU's first football coach, had a 67-56-1 mark. Matthews' teams are 69-30 during the last eight years and have won the program's national title and received five post-season bids during that time. JMU tied for the 2004 Atlantic 10 championship and won the 2008 Colonial Athletic Association title with an 8-0 record. The Dukes are 45-19 in league play during the last eight seasons.
Matthews three times has been National Coach of the Year (1999 Eddie Robinson Award by The Sports Network; American Football Coaches' 2004 award; 2008 Robinson Award and an award by Liberty Mutual) and was Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1999 and CAA Coach of the Year in 2008.
JMU in 2004 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), Furman (14-13) and 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.
JMU reached the 2006 playoffs while going 9-3 and 2007 post-season play while going 8-4.
The Dukes in 2008 lost their opener at Football Bowl Subdivision Duke but went on to a 10-1 regular-season record and the top seeding 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.
Matthews led JMU to a share of the Atlantic 10 title and to the league's automatic playoff bid in 1999 during his first year as a head coach. The Dukes were 8-3 during the regular season after being 3-8 the previous year.
In 2004 he was 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. In 2006, he was the Richmond Touchdown Club's Virginia Coach of the Year. Last year, Matthews was inducted into the West Texas State Athletic Hall of Fame.
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Matthews' JMU players have received eight league player of the year awards. Curtis Keaton was league Offensive Player of the Year and Chris Morant Defender of the Year in 1999; Derrick Lloyd was co-Defender of the Year and received the Buck Buchanan Award as National 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 and National Defender of the Year by College Sporting News in 2006; Rodney Landers was league Offensive Player of the Year and Scotty McGee league Specialist of the Year in 2008; and Arthur Moats was league Defender of the Year and received the Buck Buchanan Award as national Defender of the Year in 2009. Jordan was second in the Buchanan Award voting in 2006 and Landers was second in the voting for the Walter Payton Award in 2008.
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Matthews was introduced as JMU's fifth head coach March 22, 1999, succeeding Alex Wood, who left to become quarterbacks' coach with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
Matthews in 1999 took his JMU job a week before spring practice was to begin, inheriting a team that had won but five of its previous 18 games and was picked to finish next to last in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes lost at Division I-A national runner-up Virginia Tech but then won seven straight games, finished the regular season 8-3 overall and 7-1 in the Atlantic 10 and reached post-season play for the first time in four years.
The Dukes were named to 12 spots on the league's three all-star teams, and Keaton and Morant receiving Player of the Year honors was the first time in the league since 1980 that teammates won the awards. Never before had the same program gotten both player awards and the coaching honor.
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Matthews' 2000 team was nationally ranked for most of the year before finishing 6-5 and had nine players receive all-league honors. His 2001 team, with only 11 seniors and 54 freshmen and redshirt freshmen, was 2-9 with seven games decided by seven or fewer points.
JMU in 2002 was 5-7 and won two of its final three games with a squad that included only six seniors and five juniors. The Dukes won two overtime games, and six of their other contests were decided by seven or fewer points. JMU had eight All-Atlantic 10 honorees. JMU in 2003 was 6-6 with a team that had but four seniors.
His 2004 team won seven games by 10 or fewer points and two others that were scoreless into the second half. The balanced and deep JMU squad had only three first-team all-league honorees, including first-team All-Americans in offensive guard Matt Magerko and LeZotte, but had seven members named to the second and third all-league units.
JMU's 7-4 team in 2005 had a first-team All-American in LeZotte, and in 2006 Jordan was runner-up for the Buchanan Award. The 2006 Dukes had seven first-team all-league picks, and JMU was first nationally in kickoff return average (27.1 yards), second in sacks (4.0 per game), and fourth in rushing defense (84.8 yards per game) and passing efficiency (162.5).
The 2007 Dukes were 8-4 after falling 28-27 to eventual champion Appalachian State in the first round of NCAA play. LeZotte received his second league Defender of the Year award and All-America honors for the fourth time, and JMU was the national leader in fewest quarterback sacks allowed (0.5 per game).
JMU during the 2009 season won its final four games - all against league opponents - to finish 6-5. The 2009 Dukes won at Delaware for the first time since 1994 and at Massachusetts for the first time since 1987 during their season-closing four-game winning streak.
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Matthews coached the linebackers and defensive backs at Georgia (1996-98), which won two bowl games during his tenure. He also coached Champ Bailey, the nation's top defender and Washington's first-round choice in the 1999 NFL draft.
Georgia was 5-6 in 1996, 10-2 in 1997 and 9-3 in 1998. The Bulldogs completed 1998 having won 20 of 25 games, including a Peach Bowl win over Virginia (35-33) and an Outback Bowl win over Wisconsin (33-6). With a supposedly rebuilding team in 1998, Georgia won four SEC road games and was second in the league and 16th nationally in scoring defense (17.2 points per game).
At Marshall from 1990-95, Matthews was part of a program that won the Division I-AA title in 1992, was runner-up in 1991, 1993 and 1995, and was a 1994 semifinalist. The Herd led the nation in scoring defense in 1993 and was seventh nationally in 1990 and 1995.
Marshall won 64 games during Matthews' six years (58 the last five seasons) and won 11 or more games and made the playoffs from 1991-95. The Herd was 45-4 at home and 15-4 in post-season play. Marshall led the Southern Conference in total defense four times (1990, 93-95), scoring defense three times (1990, 93-94), passing defense twice (1990, 94) and rushing defense twice (1992, 95).