Marshall Sees Claude Mathis As Coach That Gives It Instant Credibility
MARSHALL -- Texas school board meetings need a member to bring an issue to the floor and for another member to second the motion before it can be voted upon.
Claude Mathis got a ceremonial third, fourth and fifth motion Thursday even before being approved unanimously by the Marshall Independent School District as the new director of athletics and the new head football coach at Marshall High School. And everyone in the room was happy after 83 applications, eight first-round interviews and three final-round interviews.
As superintendent Dr. Jerry Gibson put it, the hire is a slam dunk. There's nothing about bringing Mathis aboard that does not suggest the football team and the athletics department at large will be better in the future than it is today.
Mathis was someone football followers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area thought was inching closer to collegiate head coach status when he left to become SMU's running backs coach in 2015 after an extremely successful head coaching career at DeSoto High School.
To learn Mathis just three seasons later would be back on the high school level would have shocked them then, and it's still a shocker now.
"I had been told he wanted to continue to work his way up in the collegiate level," Gibson said after an introductory press conference with Mathis at Marshall's field house. "I got a phone call one day from someone that said there was a rumor that he might want to get back into high school. Even though we were steadily getting applications, I called him to ask if that rumor was true. He said it really is."
SMU football reshuffled its coaching deck in February after hiring former Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, a castaway from the Texas staff when Charlie Strong got fired. Mathis got assigned as the program's director of high school relations.
Don't take it the wrong way. Mathis' new job title didn't put the writing on the wall that he needed to find a new job nor did it reduce him to being a mascot.
SMU, probably more than any other Texas university competitive in football, puts a premium on its relationships with in-state coaches. Chad Morris was a Texas high school coach and proclaims himself as a high school coach who just happens to now be leading a college.
The fact is, Mathis has the high school bug.
Mathis had previously been hired away from DeSoto in January of 2012 by Tony Levine to become the running backs coach at the University of Houston. He lasted one month before deciding he'd rather be coaching high school ball.
DeSoto happily took Mathis back and enjoyed best-ever runs at the time to the current Class 6A Division I state semifinals in 2012 and 2013. Mathis worked his career record toward 74-18 in seven continuous seasons in two technical stints.
"I love developing kids," Mathis said. "You're there, I'm not taking anything away from any high school coaches, but you're there and you see kids on video that maybe you feel like could develop a little bit more. You can change lives at the collegiate level, you can. But at this level, I can have more of an impact. That's what I'm here for."
Marshall's job, however, is a dramatic departure from Mathis' previous high school stops and his life in general.
He's a Central Texas native, got his coaching career started there, and his legacy predominantly lives in DeSoto and within a region called the I-20 Corridor. The Corridor has DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Dallas South Oak Cliff and increasingly the Mansfield schools as its heavy hitters.
The Corridor also just might be the nation's most valuable continuous swath of programs capable of producing high-level collegiate talent on a year-to-year basis. When the Mathis-back-to-high-school rumor leaked, schools in the area were ready to take the coach.
"One school in particular and actually two," Mathis said. "Yesterday, I withdrew. I haven't interviewed since me and (Gibson) talked. I felt like this was going to be the right spot for me and my family. I can tell you right now, this is a great community. To see the love that's shown towards me and my family right now is the reason why I chose this job."
A selling point all interested high schools offered Mathis was the ability to get closer to his school-aged children. They're within the Corridor right now with his wife, but he foresees them becoming part of the Marshall athletics community down the road.
Mathis' duties begin immediately. He attended a track meet Marshall competed in later Thursday.
This is first-hand knowledge, Mathis travels extensively with the teams he governs as athletics director. He has been as far as Lubbock with the DeSoto track teams for Region I meets at Texas Tech University.
"Basketball, coach (Bobby) Carson has won over 700 games and is a strong enough personality and coach that if he just gets that pat on the back, that'll go a long way," Gibson said. "Coach (Derek) Dunaway has coached college baseball, been a head college coach, an assistant coach in college. He knows what that takes and what to do there.
"But we're just not as strong as we want to be or need to be on the girls side. We now have a girls assistant athletic director in Jodi Satterwhite. She's working so hard, so we said to (Mathis) just mentor her. Train her and teach her those little things.
"What he said was, 'More than anything, I need to be there. Those girls need to see that I'm there. We can get them a little strong in the weight room, but the biggest thing is just showing that I love them and care about them. That's going to be the thing that gets them there.'"
Longview's John King Helped Sell Marshall
Claude Mathis and Longview's John King have faced off several times in the two coaches' careers, but their upcoming non-district meetings as Marshall and Longview leaders could be viewed as far more serious.
The Marshall-Longview rivalry is one of the state's oldest. Therefore, it is one of the most heated.
King did some of the lifting to bring Mathis to the region, potentially threatening his own stranglehold on the series. Or worse.
Longview tends to bounce between Class 6A and the Class 5A level that Marshall perpetually competes within.
"Coach King has been a really good friend of mine," Mathis said. "Any time you have Longview and DeSoto, at the time, it's going to be a marquee matchup. We played on television one time on FOX Sports in a nationally broadcast game. I've learned some things from Coach King. He's a great father, done some great things at Longview and is well-respected in the coaches profession."
King has been in a giving mood recently. He helped head the first-ever Piney Woods Football Clinic along with former Texas High coach Barry Norton back in January. Now, he has persuaded Mathis directly into the fraternity that the clinic targets.
"Me talking to him and getting to know a little more about East Texas and Marshall, it was a big help," Mathis said just before laughing about what he told King. "He's a guy that you can always pick up the phone and he'll answer. He'll give you some great advice.
"I told him I've got to get him though. 'We're friends, but that's probably the one time all year long that we won't be friends until the game is over with.' I'm looking forward to seeing Coach King again, getting that renewed and playing some football with him."
Marshall As Part Of The Corridor?
The fact of the matter is both Marshall and Longview sit along Interstate 20 just as DeSoto does some 130 miles away.
Marshall and Longview have their own sets of players that have reached the ultimate levels of football and are situated in the state's best region of college football prospects per capita.
Marshall superintendent Dr. Jerry Gibson does not believe Mathis will have to reinvent the wheel to get their players to the next level. He just has to control the talent Marshall regularly produces.
Mathis' first group of seniors features offensive guard Chasen Hines, who is already an LSU verbal commitment, and a defensive back with a lot of upside in Corteze Hurd.
"DeSoto signs 20 kids a year," Gibson said. "He probably averaged 22 to 25 kids a year during his time, so he knew how to get the kids to the next level. Chasen Hines is a great example, but Cam Haller in baseball and some of our girls in softball -- The first question we asked all of our candidates was, 'Not just football players, but athletes, what would you do as athletic director to see that the tradition continues?'
"He went straight to NCAA clearinghouse. He said they've got to know their freshman year what their GPA needs to be and how their SAT and ACT need to be. That was the very first thing that we actually did talk about. Knowing not only how to develop them on the football field, but preparing in the classroom so that they're eligible to be recruited. It was very appealing that he knew that from his days at DeSoto and furthermore at SMU."
Mathis speaking to several Marshall football players that came to his press conference
"I want to let you guys know that I'm not here to lose. I don't know how. I never have. OK? You guys have had great success in the past. I will never take away from the success, I promise you. But we're going to look ahead to the future. We're going to get the job done. Everywhere I've been I've won, but the most important thing you have to do is take care of your grades...
All I'm asking you guys to do is trust me. I know change is hard. I understand that. I really do. Just trust me. Trust the process. If you've done your homework on me, I've won a couple of ball games. I plan on winning a lot more."
Gibson on advantages Marshall has versus the Corridor
"We're a one high school town, where in DeSoto you cross the street and you've got Cedar Hill. You cross the street and you've got Duncanville. Everything is there.
He said what attracted him was the fact he had heard the reputation and how the City of Marshall gets behind the athletic program and the football team. That excited him. He had done a little bit of investigation and knew we had great athletes and knows we have a great group coming still.
I think being in a one-school town and knowing that he can win and win big. He's used to winning big. Let's face it. He played two semifinals in a row and probably would have won if it wasn't for a guy named Kyler Murray. One time they got them beat and Kyler Murray pulled them out. They've been to the quarterfinal twice.
I think that he thinks he can close his personal deal, for a lack of a better term. That he can finally get that state championship ring. That's what he said was attractive about coming here."