Jay Hood named interim defensive coordinator; Mark Rhea assistant head coach
Matt Pawlowski is entering his fourth season as the WCU Defensive Coordinator after serving in the same capacity for four seasons at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., where he was a part of two NCAA Division II National Championships. He also serves as the Assistant Head Coach, as well as coaches Western Carolina's defensive backs.
Five defenders have earned All-Southern Conference accolades under Pawlowski's watchful eye in his first three seasons in Cullowhee. Defensive lineman Jeff Bradley and Mitchell Bell both garnered second team All-SoCon plaudits in 2008, with linebackers Adrian McLeod and Chris Collins earning honors in 2009. McLeod additionally garnered second team All-America recognition by The Sports Network. In 2010, Bell was again honored as was Torez Jones who led the Southern Conference with seven interceptions.
While at Grand Valley State, Pawlowski was a part of setting the longest winning streak in NCAA D-II history as the Lakers rolled off 40-consecutive wins from 2005 through 2007, falling in last season's semifinals to end the tremendous streak. In four seasons, GVSU compiled a 50-4 overall record and his defense limited opponents to 10-points or less in an impressive 24 of his 54 games coached. He also tutored 29 players to All-GLIAC plaudits, as well as defensive tackle Mike McFadden, who earned the Gene Upshaw Award for the nation's top interior lineman in 2005 and `06.
In 2007, Pawlowski had five defenders named to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) all-conference team including the league's defensive back of the year, cornerback Brandon Carr. In addition to Carr, linebacker Anthony Adams and defensive lineman Dan Shuta were each named All-American. The Lakers held opponents to 14.5 points per game while only surrendering an average of 300 yards of total offense per game. GVSU also had nine players combine for 20 interceptions.
In 2006, Grand Valley State held its opponents to seven-points or less five times, including a shutout in the season finale. The Lakers led the nation in quarterback sacks (3.53 per game), while ranking fifth in turnovers gained (37) en route to its second-straight national title. During the 2005 campaign, GVSU led the nation in pass efficiency defense (83.6 rating), ranked third in scoring defense (12.2 points per game), fifth in total defense (254.6 yards per game) and seventh against the rush (88.3 yards per game) holding eight of its 15 opponents under 100 yards rushing.
Prior to making the move to GVSU, Pawlowski spent one season each at Ashland University (Ashland, Ohio) and Allegheny College (Meadville, Pa.). As the defensive coordinator, Ashland ranked in the top five of six different GLIAC defensive categories including four of which the Eagles ranked second. At Allegheny, he again served as an offensive line coach, while also working with the special teams.
His most extensive stop was at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., where he coached from 1985 through 1998. In 13 seasons, Pawlowski built a nationally-ranked defense as the Huskies ranked among the nation's top 10 in defense six times during his tenure. SCSU led the North Central Conference (NCC) in total defense five times and ranked second once from 1987-92, while also posting three NCC defensive MVPs.
In 1999, Pawlowski left St. Cloud State to coach the linebackers and special teams at Eastern Michigan for two seasons before leaving the college game for a pair of years at Stow High School in Stow, Ohio. He rejoined the collegiate ranks in 2001 as the defensive coordinator at Marietta College, a Division III member of the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Pawlowski's collegiate coaching career spans the past 30 years, beginning at Eastern Montana College in 1977. One year later, he coached the offensive line at Montana State in Billings before switching sides of the ball beginning in 1979 where he spent the next six seasons as the defensive secondary and linebacker coach at Ohio University, a Division I, Mid-America Conference member.
Pawlowski earned his undergraduate degree in Physical Education at Montana State University and completed his Master's of Science at St. Cloud State University.
A native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Pawlowski and his wife, Vonee, have three children: Tara, Kori and Tommy.