At first blush, it seems like Morehouse College tying the football knot with Terance Mathis is the perfect marriage.
He is a known figure in the Atlanta area, having played high school football in nearby Stone Mountain, Georgia, and was a star wide receiver for the Falcons.
Mathis also checks the box of a candidate with experience as a play-caller and head coach.
But it’s the coaching background — a limited and unsuccessful one — that should create at least a bit of hesitation in the notion that Mathis can take “the football program to the next level,” as athletic director Harold Ellis said in a press release on Friday.
In 2011, Mathis landed his first collegiate gig as offensive coordinator at Savannah State. The experience did not go well. The Tigers, then in the MEAC, scored 92 points that first season. It was the lowest total in the conference for a team that finished 1-10 overall.
The following year was marginally better. Savannah State scored 147 points, or 13.4 per game, in a year that saw the Tigers finish with another double-digit loss season.
Some five years later, after leaving Savannah State, Mathis spent four years as head coach at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Georgia. Pinecrest went 7-25 under Mathis and he was not retained after the 2019 season. His last known coaching stops were at high schools Blessed Trinity in 2020 and Fellowship Christian in 2021.
Despite his lengthy experience as a college and high school coach, it matters that Mathis wasn’t part of a winning program in those roles.
It is especially true for a Morehouse team that hasn’t been above .500 since 2018 and is coming off a 2023 season in which it went 1-9 and fired alum Gerald Wilcher eight months after he took the job.
That context alone should probably place Morehouse under the same scrutiny for hiring Mathis as it was for going after ex-Grambling State coach Hue Jackson, who also did not fare well as a head coach.
Morehouse is in desperate straits to turn around its football fortunes and has attempted to put familiar names over some level of coaching accomplishment to execute a quick fix that likely won’t come.
But Mathis is likely in this situation because the pool of available coaches, particularly so close to National Signing Day, was not plentiful. And that directly falls on the administration for how its handled the search.
Through no fault of his own, Mathis is placed in a challenging situation that his experience hasn’t signaled he is equipped to handle or overcome.
Getting the Maroon Tigers to that next level will start at square one.