Matt Mitchell is set for his eighth year as the head coach of the Grand Valley State University football program. Mitchell is 69-20 as the head coach of the Lakers with four NCAA DII Playoff appearances, two NCAA DII National Semifinal appearances, two GLIAC Championships and three GLIAC North Division titles. In addition, Mitchell is 8-4 in NCAA DII Playoff action as a head coach. In 13 years as a part of the Laker football program (seven as head coach and six as an assistant) Mitchell has coached in two NCAA DII Championships games, five NCAA semifinal contests and nine NCAA quarterfinal games. GVSU is the only GLIAC team to win at least 12 games in three of the last four years.
Mitchell guided the 2016 Lakers to the ninth undefeated regular season in program history and a GLIAC outright title. The Laker offense ranked among the national leaders in virtually every category, including 485.5 yards and 40.4 points per game. GVSU rushed for 220.5 yards and passed for 265.1 yards per game. RB Marty Carter rushed for a GVSU single-season record 1,908 yards and 20 TDs, while QB Bart Williams went over the 3,300 passing yards and 33 passing TD mark for the second consecutive year. The Laker defense ranked ninth nationally in turnover margin (+21).
GVSU regrouped from a pair of regular season defeats to top five teams in a run to the 2015 NCAA DII National Semifinals. The Lakers finished 12-3 overall and avenged those two regular season setbacks with road victories over the same teams in the NCAA playoffs. GVSU claimed a 45-28 win at #3 Ashland in an opening round playoff game, followed by a 38-34 victory at #2 Ferris State in second-round action. The Lakers then claimed a 31-7 win at #4 and defending National Champion Colorado State-Pueblo in the regional final before dropping a tough 34-32 decision at #5 Shepherd in the semifinals.
The Laker offense, which averaged 38.4 points, 457.5 total yards and 285.5 passing yards per game, ranked among the national leaders in virtually every category. Senior RB Kirk Spencer rushed for 1,185 yards and 13 TDs, while junior WR Matt Williams hauled in 72 passes for 1,357 yards and 17 TDs en route to earning all-america plaudits. Redshirt freshman QB Bart Williams passed for GVSU single-season record 4,206 yards and 45 TDs, while Jim Walsh and Brandon Revenberg anchored the offensive line. Gene Upshaw Award winner and consensus all-american, Matt Judon, led the defense with a national leading 21 QB sacks and 23.5 TFL. Junior linebacker Marquez Gollman earned all-america honors with 117 tackles and three picks, while fellow junior LB David Talley recorded a team-high 128 tackles.
The 2014 Lakers finished 6-5 and faced the nations toughest regular season schedule as its opponents tallied a .627 winning percentage (69-41). Three Laker opponents advanced to the NCAA playoffs, including three that won 10 games or more and five that won at least eight games. GVSU closed the season with a 6-2 mark in its final eight games.
Mitchell guided the Lakers to a 12-3 overall mark and a 9-2 regular season mark in 2013. The Lakers also notched a 4-2 mark against teams that finished the year ranked in final AFCA Coaches’ poll. GVSU closed the 2013 regular season with a 49-34 victory over 15th-ranked Saginaw Valley State. The Lakers and Cardinals were paired up against one another in an NCAA Super Region 4 first-round playoff matchup just one week later and GVSU again came out on top, this time by a 40-7 score. Grand Valley State captured a 34-30 victory at No. 3 Colorado State-Pueblo and won its eighth NCAA DII regional crown with a 35-28 comeback win over 11th-ranked West Texas A&M. The Lakers dropped a 27-13 decision at eventual National Champion Northwest Missouri State in the semifinals.
The Lakers averaged 35.0 points and 431.3 yards per games in 2013. A stable of running backs averaged 186.5 yards per game rushing, while the passing game produced 244.7 yards per games. Due to injuries, the Lakers used two starting QBs and the RB trio patched together a rotation that rushed for 2,798 yards and 32 TDs. The defense forced 31 turnovers and really meshed together the second-half of the regular season and the playoff run. Senior offensive center Matt Armstrong was a consensus first-team all-american and the recipient of the 2013 Rimington Award as the top center in Division II football. In addition, sophomore tight end Jamie Potts earned all-america honors after catching 54 passes for 899 yards and 11 TDs..
Grand Valley State was decimated by injuries on the defensive side of the ball in 2012. Offensively, the Lakers led the GLIAC in scoring despite missing a number of key performers that were lost to season-ending injuries early in the campaign.
Mitchell set a Grand Valley State record for most wins in a season for a first-year football coach (11) in 2010, guiding GVSU to a 10-1 regular season mark and a victory over Colorado Mines in an NCAA DII First-Round playoff game. The Laker defense held five opponents to 10 points or less, while the Laker offense scored 35 points or more nine times.
A six-year veteran of the GVSU coaching staff prior to becoming head coach, Mitchell was the defensive coordinator and linebacker/safety coach for the Lakers. Mitchell's 2009 defense finished the regular season ranked first in the GLIAC in scoring defense (17.7 ppg), rushing defense (95.6 ypg), total defense (305.0 ypg), turnover margin (+22), QB sacks (48), tackles for loss (7.1 pg), and interceptions (21). The GVSU defense ranked in the top 20 of six NCAA DII national categories and held six opponents to 10 points or less. Seven Laker defenders earned either All-GLIAC first or second-team honors in 2009.
The 2008 Laker defense led the GLIAC in six different categories and ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (4th/12.6), QB sacks (2nd/4.17) and tackles for loss (6th/9.17). GVSU also ranked 17th in total defense (278.9), tallied two shutouts and limited seven opponents to 10 points or less on the year with Mitchell at the helm. Ten Lakers earned All-GLIAC plaudits, including Dan Skuta being named the GLIAC Defensive Lineman of the Year and being a consensus all-american selection.
Mitchell’s 2007 Laker linebacking unit was the focal point of a GVSU defense that led the GLIAC and ranked nationally in scoring defense (14.5), total defense (303.6), pass efficiency defense (95.6) and QB sacks (42), while ranking second in pass defense (154.7) and rush defense (148.9). Grand Valley State held nine-of-13 opponents under 14 points and only one scored more than 21 points. Anthony Adams was a consensus all-american, while Kirk Carruth and Matt Beatty earned All-GLIAC honors.
In 2006, the Laker defense held its opponents to seven points or less five times, including a shutout in the season-opener at Findlay. GVSU led the nation in QB sacks per game (3.53), while ranking fifth in turnovers gained (37). The Lakers held 8-of-15 foes under 100 yards rushing. Mitchell’s linebacking unit featured All-American Anthony Adams, Matt Beatty, Kirk Carruth and P.J. Beuke. That group comprised four of the top 10 tacklers on the 2006 squad.
In 2005, the Lakers’ defensive charge led the nation in pass efficiency defense (83.6), ranked third in scoring defense (12.2), fifth in total defense (254.6) and seventh in rushing defense (88.3). Grand Valley State held its opponents off the scoreboard in 25-of-52 quarters played during the 2005 season and seven-of-13 opponents scored 10 points or less. In addition, nine-of-13 foes failed to reach the 100-yard rushing mark. The Grand Valley State defense yielded 15 TDs in 13 games last season, with six of those 15 TDs coming in the fourth quarter. The Lakers held three opponents out of the endzone for over 11 quarters to start the season.
Mitchell’s linebacking unit was key in the Lakers’ dominating defense in 2004. GVSU led the GLIAC in scoring defense (14.4), rushing defense (99.2), and total defense (281.2). The Lakers ranked second in pass efficiency defense (95.7) and QB sacks (33). GVSU held six teams to seven points or less with one shutout (34-0 at Wayne State).
Prior to his arrival at GVSU, Mitchell spent four years at Wartburg (Iowa) College as an assistant coach, including the final two as the defensive coordinator. Wartburg, which compiled a record of 21-3 while Mitchell was in charge of the defense, advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III National Championship each of his last two years. Wartburg finished third in total defense, second in rush defense and eighth in scoring defense in 2003 under Mitchell's guidance. His 2002 defense also ranked among the top 10 statistically in Division III.
Mitchell is a certified strength and conditioning coach through the NSCA and a club coach certified through USA Weightlifting. Mitchell was named the Football Quarterly Division II Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in February 2007.
Mitchell earned his B.S.S. in Biology and Secondary Education from Cornell (Iowa) College in 1997. Matt was a two-time, First-Team All-Midwest Conference selection as a defensive lineman during his playing career at Cornell (Iowa) College.
Matt and his wife, Jen, are the proud parents of sons Trayton (8) and RJ (7).