LEWISTON — Matt Coyne has dreamed of being a head coach for a long time.

“I played quarterback, so I was a QB growing up my whole life,” Coyne said. “I always wanted to be a head coach.” 

As soon as his football playing career ended, he got to work on achieving his goals by taking his first assistant coaching job.

Matt Coyne spent 10 years working through the assistant ranks before becoming Bates College’s head football coach earlier this year. He has assembled a young coaching staff and said that the Bobcats have a lot of talented returning players. Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College photo

He spent the next 10 years paying dues, changing schools and switching positions to gain more experience and knowledge. All that work paid off earlier this year when he was hired as the head football coach at Bates College.

Coyne is the Bobcats’ third coach since Mark Harriman stepped down in early 2018 after leading the program for 20 years. Ed Argast served as the interim coach last year after it was announced in July that Malik Hall would not return as the team’s head coach. Hall later filed a civil rights lawsuit accusing the school of racial discrimination during his three-year tenure.

Argast led Bates to a 3-6 record, the program’s first three-win season since 2016. The Bobcats haven’t had a winning season since 2012.


“These kids haven’t had the best experience,” Coyne said. “But they don’t realize how much they’ve grown as young men because of the experience.”


Coyne played at Wesleyan, and as quarterback, led the Cardinals to a pair of wins over the Bobcats, including in 2010 when he ran for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in a 27-20 victory. He was voted captain his senior year,

After graduating in 2012, Coyne became the wide receivers coach for his alma mater, while simultaneously earning a master’s degree in social sciences. 

Then, in 2015, Coyne joined the Oberlin College football staff as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. 

Coyne returned to Wesleyan 2017, but in a drastically different role: defensive coordinator. He made the switch to the other side of the ball with his goal of being a head coach in mind.


“The reason I went to different phases was to prepare myself for this position,” Coyne said, “so that I would be able to oversee our offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.” 

“It was very beneficial for me to go from offense to defense,” Coyne added. “It definitely prepared me to be an all-around coach.” 

During his first season leading the Bobcats, Coyne said he will be focusing on special teams while also overseeing the offensive and defensive ends.

“I’ll be hanging my hat this season on special teams,” Coyne said. “I think that needs to be something that’s stressed a little bit more, because there were some gaps there last year.” 

“When you’re a special teams coordinator,” Coyne added, “you get to work with almost everybody on the team, not just offense or defense.”



One of Coyne’s first orders of business after being hired by Bates in February was putting together a coaching staff.

“When I first got hired, there were a few priorities,” Coyne said. “One was assembling the right staff to be able to come in and direct the ship the right way, so we were able to bring some great guys in that have coached throughout the league (NESCAC) for multiple years.” 

Coyne’s first call was to Mitchell Thompson, who last coached at Amherst. 

“As you go through coaching, you create your own little networking group,” Coyne said. “I coached with Coach Thompson at Oberlin College. He was my first call when I got the job, and he’s one of the best recruiters I know. He introduced us to our O-line and wide receivers coaches.”

Thompson is the Bobcats’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Owen Watrous is the offensive line coach and run game coordinator, and James Mayden is the wide receivers coach as well as the pass game coordinator and social media coordinator.

Ryan Jirgl is the defensive coordinator. He’ll be joined on that side of the ball by a pair of familiar faces, Auburn native Alphonso Belnavis, who gradated from Edward Little High School and was a Bates assistant in 2019, and Tom Radulski, who joined the Bobcats last year following a stint leading the Hebron Academy program.


“Quite frankly, he’s got more experience than the rest of us combined,” Coyne said. “I had a lot of people reach out to me telling me that he’s a great coach and a great person.”

After playing at the University of New Hampshire, the 66-year-old Radulski started coaching in 1980 and during his career has served as head coach at UMass Lowell (1993-95) and Sacred Heart (1997-99). He also has experience in the NESCAC, serving as defensive coordinator at Hamilton (1984), Colby (1985) and Bowdoin (2000-10).

Besides Radulski, the average age of the coaches is 31. Coyne hopes this will help the players relate to the staff. 

“We have a younger staff, and I did that by design,” Coyne said. “For me, it’s about player relations — understanding what they’re going through and how to motivate them. That’s what the coaches I had did for me. And that’s how you start the foundation of a culture. Culture is everything.” 


Last year, the Bobcats ran the ball the second fewest times in the NESCAC but threw it the second most. 


Coyne plans to change that. 

“It’s going to be a balanced attack, throwing and running the ball,” Coyne said. “You have to run the ball in this league in order to control the game.” 

“Great teams run the ball,” Coyne added. “When you have leads and are in positions to win, you have to be able to run the football. It shortens games. At any level, the teams that win run the football.” 

Defensively, Bates will force peripheral players, not stars, to beat them.

“If they’re going to beat us, let’s have them beat us with their 3 or 4 options, not their 1 or 2 options,” Coyne said. “There’s a difference between getting beat and losing a game.”  

Coyne’s main priority, though, will be figuring out how to put the Bobcats’ best players in positions to succeed. 

“(My strategy is) analyzing what your best players attributes are and figuring out how to put them in those positions as many times as possible,” Coyne said. 

Coyne said the Bobcats have a lot of talent among the 54 players returning from last year’s team that finished tied for seventh in the 10-team NESCAC.

“We have some talented players,” Coyne said. “The talent gap is not as extreme as some may think.”

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