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Carthel welcomes challenge SFA football presents


SFA coach Colby Carthel speaks during Southland Conference media day in July. Photo provided by SFA Athletics

The Carthel family has made acareer of taking over struggling football programs and turning them into contenders.

Don Carthel did it when he turned a woeful West Texas A&M team into a Division II power from 2005-2012. 

His son Colby Carthel follows in his fathers footsteps.

When Carthel opens fall camp for his first season as the head man at FCS school Stephen F. Austin State, he’ll be the Lumberjacks’ third head coach in two years.

He’ll also be taking over a team that won just six games in two years.

“I think it’s fun to coach in these type of situations, and it’s a way to challenge yourself,” said Carthel, who is the 19th head coach in SFA program history. “It gives you a chance to test who you are and make a big difference. We’re not just wanting to change wins and losses but also people’s outlooks on the university and the community. SFA has a tremendous name and a brand in East Texas and in the Metroplex.”

Carthel, a Friona graduate, didn’t back down when he flew from under his father’s wing as defensive coordinator at WT to take over a Texas A&M-Commerce program that was in shambles.

When Carthel’s reboot at Commerce started in 2013, the Lions were fresh off a 1-9 season.

Carthel and his staff made their mark with an instant turnaround of Lion football.

He flipped Commerce into a Lone Star Conference force, going 59-18 in six seasons, not to mention leading the Lions to an improbable 2017 Division IINational Championship.

SFA second-year athletic director Ryan Ivey hired Carthel at Commerce and has followed his success ever since. When the ’Jacks football job opened at the end of last year, Ivey didn’t have a doubt on rekindling his Carthel relationship.


First-year SFA coach Colby Carthel overlooks a spring football practice in April. Photo provided by SFA Athlestics

“I think more than anything I love his approach to the game,” Ivey said. “He has the ability to build relationships with student-athletes, and his recruiting ability is phenomenal. It’s fascinating to watch him and his staff work and lead a program. I would tell you that from his first day at Commerce to his first spring here at SFA.”

Down in the piney woods of East Texas, Carthel is getting a chance on a bigger stage to prove he’s capable of repeating history. 

It won’t be easy. SFA was picked ninth in the 2019 Southland Conference preseason poll, however he did have the third best recruiting class of any FCS school.

Carthel has also utilized one of his top skill sets. His charming demeanor and West Texas lingo makes it easy for his players, the university and the Nacodoches communtiy to all  “buy in.”

“We’re doing the same things we did at WT and Commerce,” Carthel said. “We want to win on Saturdays because of the work we do year-round through doing the right things in offseason, spring ball, the camps and ouracademic support. Winning is a combination of things. Maybe that’s why our buy-in was a little quicker with the team, because we do have that credibility from before.”

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