Don Matthews

Last updated

Don Matthews
Biographical details
Born(1939-06-22)June 22, 1939
Amesbury, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 14, 2017(2017-06-14) (aged 77)
Beaverton, Oregon, U.S.
Playing career
1960–1963 Idaho
Position(s) Linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1964 Idaho (GA)
1965 Ely HS (NV) (assistant)
1966–1968Ely (NV) HS
1969–1970 Joel E. Ferris HS (WA)
1971–1972Idaho (OL)
1973Idaho (OC)
1974–1976 Sunset HS (OR)
1977 Edmonton Eskimos (LB)
1978–1982 Edmonton Eskimos (DC)
1983–1987 BC Lions
1989 Edmonton Eskimos (DC)
1990 Toronto Argonauts
1991 Orlando Thunder
1991–1993 Saskatchewan Roughriders
1994–1995 Baltimore Stallions
1996–1998 Toronto Argonauts
1999–2000 Edmonton Eskimos
2002–2006 Montreal Alouettes
2008 Toronto Argonauts
Head coaching record
Overall231–132–1 (CFL)
5–5 (WLAF)
Accomplishments and honors
Grey Cups (5): 73rd, 83rd, 84th, 85th, 90th
2nd highest win total by CFL coach

Donald J. Matthews, [1] a.k.a. "the Don", (June 22, 1939 – June 14, 2017) was a head coach of several professional football teams, mostly in the Canadian Football League (CFL). He won 231 games in the CFL, the second highest win total by a head coach in the league's history while leading four teams to Grey Cup victories. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in September 2011.


Early life and college

Matthews was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, the son of Canadian-born parents, Ida (Babin), from Tracadie, New Brunswick, and Fred Matthews, a steel mill worker from Prince Edward Island. [2] From a large family of limited means and education, he quit high school in Amesbury after his senior season of football in 1956 and served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. [3]

Matthews returned home and earned his high school diploma and then on the advice of a teacher, ventured west in 1960 as a 21-year-old freshman to Moscow, Idaho. He walked-on at Idaho as a linebacker on the freshman team; [4] he was awarded a scholarship by varsity head coach Skip Stahley after his first semester. [5] He earned three letters and was a team captain in his senior season of 1963, when the Vandals, in their second year under Dee Andros, achieved their first winning season in a quarter century. [6] Matthews graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in education in 1964. [3] [7] [8]

Early career

Matthews was a graduate assistant for the Vandals in Moscow for the 1964 season under Andros and freshman coach Bud Riley. [9] Matthews then coached high school football in Nevada at Ely for four years and won a state title. He relocated to eastern Washington at Spokane in 1969 as head coach at Ferris, where he led the Saxons to the city title in his second and final year. [10]

Matthews became a collegiate assistant coach back at his alma mater in 1971 as offensive line coach (later as offensive coordinator), under second-year head coach Don Robbins. [7] After an 0–2 start, the Vandals finished at 8–3, which included an eight-game winning streak, and won the Big Sky title. At the time it was the best record in school history, and three seniors were selected in the 1972 NFL Draft. Two years later, Robbins was fired following the 1973 season and Matthews moved to the Portland area. He took over a winless program at Sunset High School in Beaverton and won consecutive state championships in 1975 and 1976, going undefeated in his third and final year. [3] He left Sunset after the 1976 season to become a CFL assistant coach in Edmonton, Alberta. [11]

Pro coaching career

Matthews was formerly head coach of the CFL's BC Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Baltimore Stallions, Toronto Argonauts, Edmonton Eskimos, and Montreal Alouettes. He was also head coach of the Orlando Thunder of the World League of American Football in 1991. [12]

After coaching the Eskimos for two seasons, Matthews resigned as head coach just prior to the team's first preseason game on June 18, 2001. [13]

In October 2006, Matthews stepped down as head coach of the Alouettes expressing undisclosed health issues that were "affecting his ability to perform". [14]

In May 2008, Matthews was announced as an advisor to the Jeff Hunt-led group's conditional Ottawa franchise. [15]

Don Matthews returned to Toronto on September 9, 2008, as the interim coach for the Argonauts, after they started the season with a 4–6 record. [16] In that press conference, Matthews revealed that the major health reason that caused him to step down as head coach of the Alouettes was an anxiety disorder. He also went further to say that he had been prescribed to some medication and the anxiety attacks are now under control. [17] [18] On October 31, 2008, he resigned from the Argonauts a day after the conclusion of the Argonauts 2008 regular season, which saw the Argos fail to win a game in the eight games under his leadership and finishing out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2001 CFL season. [19]

Matthews was selected for induction in the Builder category into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on February 10, 2011. [20]

On November 5, 2012, Matthews announced he was battling cancer and therefore would not be able to participate in any of the festivities for the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto. [21]

The Montreal Alouettes announced on July 30, 2014, that Matthews had joined the team in a coaching consultant role for the second consecutive year. [22]

Coaching records

Don Matthews holds several head coaching records: [23]

He also has an additional five Grey Cup titles as defensive co-ordinator of the Edmonton Eskimos.

CFL head coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPost-season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostResult
BC 1983 1150.6881st in West Division11Lost in Grey Cup
BC 1984 1231.8001st in West Division01Lost in Division Finals
BC 1985 1330.8131st in West Division20Won Grey Cup
BC 1986 1260.6672nd in West Division11Lost in Division Finals
BC 1987 860.5731st in West Division(fired)
TOR 1990 1080.5562nd in East Division11Lost in Division Finals
SSK 1991 560.4554th in West DivisionMissed Playoffs
SSK 1992 990.5003rd in West Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
SSK 1993 1170.6113rd in West Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
BAL 1994 1260.6672nd in East Division21Lost in Grey Cup
BAL 1995 1530.8331st in South Division30Won Grey Cup
TOR 1996 1530.8331st in East Division20Won Grey Cup
TOR 1997 1530.8331st in East Division20Won Grey Cup
TOR 1998 990.5003rd in East Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
EDM 1999 6120.3333rd in West Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
EDM 2000 1080.5562nd in West Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
MTL 2002 1350.7221st in East Division20Won Grey Cup
MTL 2003 1350.7221st in East Division11Lost in Grey Cup
MTL 2004 1440.7781st in East Division01Lost in Division Finals
MTL 2005 1080.5562nd in East Division21Lost in Grey Cup
MTL 2006 860.5711st in East Division(stepped down)
TOR 2008 080.0003rd in East Divisionmissed playoffs
Team totals
BC 1983–198756231.7004 West Division
431 Grey Cup
TOR 1990, 1996–
1998, 2008
49310.6132 East Division
522 Grey Cups
SSK 1991–199325220.5320 West Division
020 Grey Cups
BAL 1994–19952790.7501 South Division
511 Grey Cup
EDM 1999–200016200.4440 West Division
020 Grey Cups
MTL 2002–200658280.6744 East Division
521 Grey Cup
Total2311331.63311 Division
19135 Grey Cups


Matthews' mother, Ida, was a francophone from Tracadie, New Brunswick, while his father, Fred, was from Prince Edward Island. Had current Canadian nationality laws been in effect in 1939, Matthews would have become a Canadian citizen under the principle of jus sanguines, but separate Canadian citizenship was not enacted until 1947 and was not extended retroactively to anyone born outside the country prior to 1947. In 2004, Matthews became a naturalized Canadian citizen. [24]

Matthews had three sons and six grandchildren. He lived in Beaverton, Oregon, with his wife Stephanie and stepson Blaze. [25]

After a long 5-year battle with cancer, Matthews died on June 14, 2017. [26]

See also

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  1. Rogers Digital Media. "The life and legacy of the incomparable Don Matthews". Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  2. Bill Beacon (October 20, 2004). "Matthews chooses to become citizen". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 Portland Tribune Archived February 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine - A new game plan for famed coach - 2010-02-11
  4. "Vandal babe standouts". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1961. p. 154.
  5. Blanchette, John (February 9, 1983). "Things are not so shaky for Don Matthews anymore". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
  6. "Football". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1964. p. 255.
  7. 1 2 Go - lifetime achievement - Don Matthews - accessed 2011-10-22
  8. Lawton, James (January 15, 1983). "Matthews has travelled a long, tough highway". Vancouver Sun. British Columbia. p. E1.
  9. "Football". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1965. p. 252.
  10. "Ferris coach takes post as aide with Vandals". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). January 29, 1971. p. 15.
  11. "Don Matthews, local and legendary football coach, dies at 77". June 16, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  12. "Orlando Thunder History". Retrieved June 18, 2017. The Orlando Thunder was a member of the World League of American Football from 1991 to 1992 (known as NFL Europe from 1995 onwards). The team played their games in the 70,000 seat Citrus Bowl, and was coached by Don Matthews in 1991 and Galen Hall in 1992...
  13. "Don Matthews steps down". Canadian Football League. June 18, 2001. Archived from the original on January 1, 2003.
  14. "Als coach Matthews resigns". CBC Sports. October 4, 2006. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
  15. Brennan, Don (September 12, 2008). "Hunt: Matthews inspired by Kilrea". Ottawa Sun. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2008.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  16. "Argos fire Stubler, bring back Matthews". CBC Sports. September 9, 2008. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  17. "Hamilton's online newspaper | Today's Spectator stories". Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  18. O’Connor, Joe (October 29, 2008). "Argos' Matthews winning battle with anxiety". National Post. Canada. Retrieved October 31, 2008.[ permanent dead link ]
  19. "Matthews quits as Argos coach". CBC Sports. October 31, 2008. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
  20. "Canadian Football Hall of Fame announces Class of 2011," Canadian Football Hall of Fame & Museum, Thursday, February 10, 2011. Archived July 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  21. "Don Matthews battling cancer". Calgary Sun . Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  22. "Don Matthews, Turk Schonert join Alouettes as consultants | Metro News". July 30, 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  23. "Hall of Fame Builder: Don Matthews. Inducted in 2011". Canadian Football Hall of Fame. 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  24. "Alouettes hammer Renegades at the Big O". CBC News. October 23, 2004.
  25. Canada (July 19, 2013). "Legendary coach Don Matthews 'making a comeback'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  26. "Legendary CFL coach Don Matthews dead at age 77". CBC News. June 14, 2017.