LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When a chance to become head coach at your Alma mater occurs, it’s hard for former players to say no.
When University of the Cumberlands coach John Bland announced he was leaving the program following the national title game, that left an opening that the university was quick to fill with South Laurel’s Matt Rhymer.
“I am an alumni at Cumberlands, I played football for four years there, was an assistant coach there for five years under John Bland,” Rhymer said. “This is a place that I could see myself at a really long time. My wife and I are closer to our family, work, and church here. I am well connected to the Williamsburg community and have a lot of support here so that helps.”
While his one year at South Laurel didn’t produce as many wins as he would have liked (the Cardinals finished 3-7), he did bring a level of excitment back to the program and turned the Cardinals in the right direction.
“I had an awesome time at South Laurel and in the community the short time I was there,” Rhymer said. “I met some amazing people that I hope I can continue to build relationships with.”
The Patriots went 13-1 this past season and lost in the NAIA championship game. Rhymer said he is excited to take over the program and doesn’t feel any pressure going in.
“As far as taking over the team that just played for a national title, I can’t describe how exciting that is,” Rhymer said. “We now have a taste of what that experience is like and will work relentlessly to not only get back to the game but to win a national title. Over the years I have developed a strong relationship and appreciation for the administration here at the University of the Cumberlands and look forward to working with them. I share the same beliefs, vision and mission of the university as a Christian and that makes this a great fit. I am familiar with the campus and day to day operations, that will help in being the head football coach. This is an humbling and exciting opportunity for myself and my family.”
Still, he will miss South Laurel and enjoyed his brief time there.
“I will carry a lot of great memories with me from the year at South Laurel,” Rhymer said. “The kids I coached were great and they did everything I asked them to do, they believed in what we were doing. I fully believe there is a group of kids at South right now that can win a lot of football games starting this year. I hope they hire a great coach and win every single game. I appreciate the Laurel County School District; Dr. Bennett is a great person and leader.”