Matt Coyne Named 22nd Head Football Coach in Program History

Coyne, pictured here in a Wesleyan shirt, will be leaving Middletown, CT to move to Lewiston, where he will be taking on the role of head coach for the Bobcats.

Wesleyan Athletics

Coyne, pictured here in a Wesleyan shirt, will be leaving Middletown, CT to move to Lewiston, where he will be taking on the role of head coach for the Bobcats.

They say good things come in threes, and it looks like that’s the case for both the Bates football program and its new head coach, Matt Coyne. Bates not only marks Coyne’s third NESCAC football team, but he’s also set to be the Bobcats’ third head coach in just three years.

On Feb. 8, Athletic Director Jason Fein announced that Coyne, the former defensive coordinator at Wesleyan University, will become the 22nd head football coach in program history. The incoming head coach spent five years at the Connecticut NESCAC, serving as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach while also coordinating the special teams. He graduated from Wesleyan in 2012, where he played in the program for two years after transferring from Williams College.

Coyne hopes to lead the program to more success; during the fall season, the team was just 3-6, the most wins they’ve seen since 2016. To combat those stats, Coynes told The Student that he will be focusing on “stability and consistency.”

“I uprooted my whole life to move up here, and I plan to be here for a long time,” he said. “[The team] just needs some structure and some stability, and we need to culturally shift the program in a positive direction. That applies to all facets of their student life, it’s in the classroom and the community on campus, which trickles down onto the field.”

Coyne has held a number of different coaching positions, including offensive coordinator, wide receiver coach and quarterbacks coach, which he believes will help him transition into the leading role.

“I knew that in order to be a head coach, you’re always monitoring everything and you have to have a sense of control, obviously, to let your coaches coach, but have an understanding of what you know,” he said.

Coyne is more focused on his players being “good people” rather than just the number of wins in a season. If they first tackle that goal, winning will follow, he says.

“Everybody should be supporting everybody,” he said. “For us, we need to do more outreach on our campus, show a positive face, be more connected and understand that this is a symbiotic relationship.”

One way to do so is through good leadership. This coming fall, the team will have many fifth-year players as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, something that Coyne sees as an advantage.

“I think those guys coming back are going to lay the groundwork for our freshmen and incoming class that, you know, there will be a standard going forward,” he said. “They won’t even realize it, but the legacy that they’re going to leave is going to be super important to the revitalization of the program.”

Currently, Coyne and the assistant coaches are actively working on recruiting players for this coming fall, especially because the class of 2025 made a small dent in the roster this year. Recruiting fell flat last year, especially after former Head Coach Malik Hall’s sudden exit and the announcement that Ed Argast would be taking over in his place as an interim. 

“Some difficult things happened, which really does hurt recruiting,” Coyne said. “It’s not anything on the coaches or anything like that. It’s just a situation that was really unique.”

This year, the NESCAC is allowing 15 practices for fall teams in the spring, which is unusual. Coyne says this is “vital for our program,” and will help the team understand how practice will be different. But, before practices, his aim is to meet everyone on the team.

“My main goal next week is to sit down and meet with everybody individually and get to know them for who they are,” he said. “Those talks could have little to do with football. So we understand what drives them, what motivates them, where they’re from and their family.”

After that, Coyne plans to increase the intensity and discipline within the program. 

“We have to operate at a different standard, because what has gone on before isn’t working,” he said. “It’s important to build that family culture and start changing the mindset.”

Coyne added that “spring practices are going to be very intense,” and that the players “will be kicked up to a different gear,” which is something he learned was important from his time at Wesleyan.

“That’s something I experienced at Wesleyan that led to success, but you know, it is also going to have my own little wrinkle in it, and enhancement, so that’s what we’ve planned in the spring.”

Though it will be his first time in a head coaching role, Coyne hopes to bring his previous NESCAC experience with him to Bates.

“I came from a public high school where sports were everything,” he said. “When I went to Williams and Wesleyan, my mind evolved, I grew as a person, I was able to talk and communicate and understand different lenses, accept different people and understand their beliefs.”

That experience shaped him, and when the job opened up at Bates, he was eager to apply. The people, he said, were the reason he chose to come to Lewiston. 

“It was a very inclusive feeling. Talking to alumni and students, they felt like they had a family and felt very connected,” he said. “That’s super important, especially for our recruits that we’re going to bring up here. They’re going to come from other areas to Lewiston, and when they get on campus, you want them to feel at home, and you want them to feel accepted. Bates College provides that.”

Though he has a positive outlook on this coming season, Coyne acknowledged that the process “doesn’t happen overnight.” As for right now, he is focused on the “evolvement of the culture,” which he hopes “will trickle down into the play that we see on Saturdays.”

“There’s a reason why there’s not many great teams in the country,” he said. “It’s hard to be great. It’s going to be a hard method, and it’s going to be grueling, and we’re going to learn a lot about each other. But we’re also going to grow together, as well.”