Head Coach Colby Carthel


Director of athletics Ryan Ivey and acting university president Dr. Steve Westbrook announced the hiring of Colby Carthel as SFA’s 20th head football coach on Tuesday, Dec. 4 inside the Baker Pattillo Student Center Movie Theater. Carthel, a proven winner and national champion with deep Texas ties, arrives in Nacogdoches after leading Texas A&M-Commerce to the pinnacle of NCAA Division II football.
Hired as the 19th head coach in A&M-Commerce history on January 22, 2013, Carthel spent the previous six seasons guiding the Lions, where he captured the 2017 NCAA Division II Football National Championship in his fifth year at the helm. Owning an eye-popping .766 winning percentage as a head coach, Carthel posted an 59-18 overall record at A&M-Commerce with an impressive 36-8 (.818) conference record. In addition to three Lone Star Conference championships, Carthel led the Lions to six consecutive postseason appearances and four-straight NCAA playoff appearances.
Owning four coach of the year awards, Carthel’s 35 total wins over the last three seasons is nearly unprecedented in college football. Of the 27 scholarship programs in Texas, only Carthel-led A&M-Commerce and three other programs - Baylor, TCU and Sam Houston State - have had three-straight 10-win seasons in the last 10 years.
Under Carthel’s tutelage as a head coach, his players have captured four national player of the year awards, two regional player of the year awards and nine conference player of the year awards. While at A&M-Commerce, Carthel witnessed his student-athletes garner 56 All-American honors, including 21 All-American First Team selections, not to mention 20 all-region accolades and 141 all-conference plaudits.
Mentoring young men not only on the field, but in the classroom as well, Carthel has had his players collect numerous all-academic honors. Coaching one academic player of the year, Carthel’s Lion student-athletes earned two College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Google Cloud Academic All-America® and All-District® Team spots, in addition to 11 academic all-conference selections.
A native of Friona, Texas, and a four-year letter winner at both Friona High School and Angelo State, Carthel’s footprint has been in the Lone Star State for quite some time. Recruiting heavily within the state, all but one of Carthel’s 285 high school signees across six signing classes as a head coach have hailed from Texas. With a major concentration in east Texas, Carthel has made it a point to recruit locally. In his initial signing class at A&M-Commerce in 2013, Carthel signed 24 of his 37 incoming freshmen (65 percent) from within 150 miles of campus, which included a good portion of east Texas.
In the fall of 2018, Carthel completed yet another ultra-successful season at A&M-Commerce. His Lions reached their third-straight NCAA Division II Regional Semifinal in the last three years after going 10-3 overall and notching a 7-1 league mark. Being named Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year for the first time in his career, Carthel guided A&M-Commerce to a 33-17 upset road win over second-seeded Minnesota Duluth in the regional quarterfinals.
A total of 25 players gathered All-Lone Star Conference recognition following the completion of the 2018 season, highlighted by place-kicker Kristov Martinez being named academic player of the year and a total of seven Lions garnering first-team honors. Additionally, linebacker Garrett Blubaugh and Martinez were CoSIDA Google Cloud Academic All-District® selections.
Carthel led A&M-Commerce to the most successful season in the school’s athletics history in 2017 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 year with a nation-best 10-game winning streak and the first NCAA title in school history.
A&M-Commerce completed the season with a 14-1 overall record and a 7-1 mark in conference. The Lions 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. A&M-Commerce 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” with the national championship, Harlon Hill Trophy, and NCAA Elite 90 Award in the same season.
Quarterback Luis Perez became the first A&M-Commerce player to win the Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the top player in Division II football. He completed 421-of-596 passes for 4,999 yards and 46 touchdowns on the season and set Division II playoff records in all passing categories. Linebacker Blubaugh won the Elite 90 Award, given to the student-athlete at the championship site with the highest cumulative grade point average.
In 2017, three A&M-Commerce players - Perez, offensive lineman Jared Machorro, and cornerback Yusef Sterling-Lowe - accumulated seven All-American honors from the American Football Coaches Association, Division II Conference Commissioners Association, and Associated Press. The Lions became the first team to ever have three AFCA Division II All-Americans in the same season.
A total of 29 players were recognized with honors from the Lone Star Conference at the end of the regular season, including Perez winning the J.W. Rollins Award as the top offensive player in the league and Machorro earning offensive lineman of the year.
The 2016 season saw the Lions achieve new heights with their third consecutive Lone Star Conference championship and first Division II playoff win in 25 years. A&M-Commerce hosted its first postseason game since 1991 and defeated Colorado Mesa 34-23 in the opening round of the playoffs. Going 11-2 overall with an 8-1 league record, the Lions matched the program record with 29 All-Lone Star Conference honors, including defensive back of the year Uriah Harris as running back Richard Cooper and wide receiver Lance Evans repeated as first-team performers.
In his third season as head coach in 2015, Carthel led A&M-Commerce to its second-straight Lone Star Conference regular season title. The Lions went 8-4 on the year and earned the seventh seed in the Division II playoffs, advancing to the NCAA postseason for the first time since 1995. With an undefeated Lone Star Conference regular season, A&M-Commerce garnered a school-record 27 all-conference honors. The Lions also collected three All-American awards, while Cooper was named the Lone Star Conference Offensive Back of the Year.
Following Carthel’s second year at the helm of A&M-Commerce football in 2014, the Lions saw 26 student-athletes named All-Lone Star Conference as six players earned NFL preseason roster spots. The 2014 unit went 9-3 overall and 6-1 in league play to earn the program’s 21st Lone Star Conference 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, which resulted in a 72-21 rout of East Central University. The bowl appearance was the first time since 1990-91 A&M-Commerce made consecutive postseason trips.
Vernon Johnson took home the Lone Star Conference Wide Receiver of the Year Award, while defensive end Toni Pulu earned defensive player of the year honors. Five Lions, Johnson, Ricky Collins, Pulu and Saul Martinez claimed All-American status from various publications, while five players made postseason all-star bowl appearances with Joe Bergeron and Johnson appearing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and Collins, Charles Tuaau and Ashton Dorsey playing in the College Gridiron Showcase.
A&M-Commerce opened the season by scoring 98 points and an NCAA record 986 total yards of offense. The pace saw the Lions end the season with the NCAA’s No. 1 offense in terms of total yards per game (535.4) and scoring per game (54.1), while finishing tops in the nation in tackles for loss per game (10.8).
Carthel led A&M-Commerce to a 7-5 record in his first season in Commerce in 2013, a far cry from the combined 5-26 record the program had 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 1995.
Although Carthel was previously a defensive coordinator, A&M-Commerce made huge strides on the offensive side of the ball in his first season, averaging 35 points per game, a 22.4 points per game increase and the most by a Lion team since 1990. The Lions garnered 15 All-Lone Star Conference selections in 2013, including three first-team recognitions. Defensive lineman Tuaau was named the league’s top defender and earned All-America status, while Johnson was heralded as the league’s top wide receiver after hauling in over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Carthel arrived in Commerce with strong ties to the Lone Star Conference, spending the previous seven seasons as the defensive coordinator at West Texas A&M (2006-12) 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 titles while making an appearance in the postseason each year, including a trip to the NCAA semifinals.
Prior to his time at West Texas A&M, Carthel spent six seasons at fellow Southland Conference member Abilene Christian (2000-05). While in Abilene, Carthel served as the Wildcats’ defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
All told, Carthel has made 12 consecutive trips to the postseason as a Division II coach, both as an assistant and head coach.
Carthel was a standout player at Angelo State, where he started at middle linebacker and helped lead the Rams to the Lone Star Conference South Championship by recording 59 tackles, four sacks and a fumble recovery as a senior in 1999. Also a four-year letter winner on the Angelo State track and field team, Carthel competed in the discus throw. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Angelo State in 2000 and later his master’s degree from West Texas A&M in 2000.
Colby is married to former West Texas A&M All-American volleyball player and A&M-Commerce associate head volleyball coach Sarah Carthel. The two have a pair of sons, Major and Bear.