NACOGDOCHES — CBS19 has confirmed current Texas A&M-Commerce head football coach Colby Carthel will now take over the program at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Carthel was hired to lead Lions by current SFA Athletic Director Ryan Ivey, who's the former athletic director at A&M-Commerce, on January 22, 2013, and guided the Lions to the pinnacle of Division II, winning the 2017 NCAA Division II Football National Championship in his fifth season as head coach. Ivey was hired as SFA's new AD in May 2018.
The Lions also had 126 all-LSC honorees in Carthel’s five seasons.
The 2017 season was far and away the most successful season in Lion athletics history, with the National Championship capping a spectacular run. The Lions defeated West Florida 37-27 in the National Championship Game in Kansas City, ending the season with a nation-best 10-game winning streak and the first NCAA title in school history.
The Lions completed the year with a record of 14-1 overall and 7-1 in the Lone Star Conference. A&M-Commerce won three straight road games in the playoffs as Super Region Four’s fifth seed. The three teams they defeated on the road came into the games with a combined record of 34-1, marking the toughest road to a national semifinal in Division II history. The Lions then defeated Harding 31-17 at home in the national semifinals in front of a record crowd of over 10,000. The Lions finished third in the nation in cumulative attendance and fifth in the nation in average attendance, as 8,580 fans per game turned out to support the national champions.
The Lions became the first team ever to claim the “Triple Crown” of the National Championship, Harlon Hill Trophy, and NCAA Elite 90 Award in the same season.
The 2016 season saw the Lions achieve new heights with their third straight LSC Championship and the first NCAA Division II Playoff win in 25 years. The Lions hosted their first postseason game since 1991 and defeated Colorado Mesa, 34-23, in the opening round of the playoffs.
A&M-Commerce went 11-2 with an 8-1 LSC record. The Lions re-set the school record with 29 all-Lone Star Conference honors, including Defensive Back of the Year Uriah Harris. Running back Richard Cooper and wide receiver Lance Evans repeated as first team all-LSC honorees.
In 2015, Carthel led the Lions to their second straight and 22nd overall Lone Star Conference regular season title. A&M-Commerce went 8-4 on the year and earned the seventh seed in the NCAA Division II Playoffs, advancing to the NCAA postseason for the first time since 1995. The Lions dropped their first round game at second-seeded Ferris State, 48-30.
With an undefeated LSC regular season, the Lions clinched their second consecutive conference title on October 24 with a win over Midwestern State.
In Carthel’s second season (2014), the Lions saw 26 players earn All-Lone Star Conference – a school record at the time – and had six Lions earn NFL preseason roster spots.
The 2014 unit went 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the Lone Star Conference to earn the team’s 21st LSC title and first since 1990. The team earned its second straight postseason appearance with a trip to the C.H.A.M.P.S Heart of Texas Bowl, 72-21 rout of East Central. The trip was the first time since 1990-1991 that the Lions made consecutive postseason trips.
The Lions opened the season with 98 points and a NCAA record 986 total yards offense. The pace saw the Lions end the season with the NCAA’s No. 1 offense in terms of total yards per game and scoring per game.
The Lions racked up team accolades as well under Carthel’s direction in 2014. A&M-Commerce also sported the No. 1 offense in the NCAA averaging 54.1 points per game, while the Lions defense finished the season No. 1 in tackles for loss per game at 10.8.
Carthel led the Lions to a 7-5 record in his first season at the helm in 2013, a far cry from the combined 5-26 record the team put up in the three seasons prior to his arrival. That turnaround, one that included wins over nationally-ranked Delta State and Tarleton State, earned the Lions a postseason berth in the Live United Texarkana Bowl – the program’s first postseason berth since qualifying for the national playoffs in 1995.
Although previously a defensive coordinator, the Lions made huge strides on the offensive side of the ball in his first season, averaging 35.0 points per game, which was up 22.4 points per game from the previous year and was the most by a Lion team since the 1990 team averaged 36.2 per game.
The Lions also garnered 15 all-Lone Star Conference selections in 2013, including three on the first team.
Carthel came to Commerce with strong ties to the Lone Star Conference, spending the seven previous seasons as the defensive coordinator at West Texas A&M and playing a key role in establishing the Buffs as one of the top teams in the region.
During his seven years at West Texas A&M, the Buffs captured four Lone Star Conference championships while making an appearance in the postseason each year including a trip to the NCAA semifinals.
All told, Carthel has made 12 consecutive trips to the postseason as a Division II coach, both as an assistant coach and a head coach.