The search for a Payson High School football coach has finally ended.
After months of scouring through resumes and wallowing in futile attempts to fit a new coach’s salary into the cash-strapped school budget, administrators announced last week that Matt Mayo of Goodyear has been selected to replace Josh Anderson.
The former coach, who led the Longhorns to the 2008 3A state football championship, resigned last spring to become head coach at Dakota State University.
What threw a monkey wrench into the selection process is that all teaching positions and the budget in the district had been frozen months ago, making it virtually impossible to find a classroom job for a new coach.
“We were working through a lot of problems,” athletic director Jason Lobik said.
While one of the most recognized and successful coaches in the state — one many consider a legend — expressed an interest in the job, he needed a salary which district administrators could not come up with.
“I’m sorry things didn’t work out there, I would have liked to come to Payson,” the veteran coach said.
About a month ago, two PHS social studies teachers resigned which opened a contract position for a football coach.
At Payson High, Mayo will fill one of those vacated social studies teaching positions. He is also certified to teach physical education.
The new coach had an interest in the football job months ago, but when he learned there was no teaching position to go along with it, he backed away.
“But when I heard there was a (teaching) job, I decided to go after it,” he said. “I think think this job is a perfect fit, I’m excited and this is a great football town.”
First on Mayo’s agenda was to gather his players late last week and introduce himself.
He did that while hosting weight training and on-the-field practice sessions.
He’ll continue to oversee weight training from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday and practice sessions at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Although Mayo has no head coaching experience, he spent the past two seasons as a running backs and linebackers position coach at Goodyear Desert Edge High School.
Prior to that stint, he spent two seasons as a defensive line and running backs coach at Chandler Seton High School. There, he was also the junior varsity head coach, an equipment manager and video coordinator.
As a student from 1998 to 1999 at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., he played linebacker for the school’s NCAA D-II football team.
At Seton High School from 1994 to 1997, he was a two-year starter at linebacker and a Class 2A All-Metro Region selection.
In addition to being an assistant football coach, Mayo has coached track and field specializing in the shot put and discus at Desert Edge. He was also the school’s off-season weight training instructor.
On his resume, the new coach describes himself as “highly motivated and passionate about teaching and coaching.”
Among those impressed with Mayo is assistant principal Tim Fruth.
“He is a nice young man and came very well prepared to the interview,” he said. “We also asked ourselves, ‘who would you want your kids to be in the classroom with’ and he was the one we came up with.”
As the Horns new head coach, Mayo says he won’t make many noticeable changes in the offense and defense the team employed last year, which was a 4-3 defense and a ground-oriented power option attack.
“I believe if it’s not broken don’t fix it,” he said. “And there’s nothing broken, but I will make a few defensive changes.”
Mayo has experience coaching the 4-3, but also 5-2 and 3-3-5 defensive schemes.
In addition to spending last week introducing himself to the players, Mayo has been assembling a coaching staff. Thus far, he says Ryan St. Johns, Jarod Swanson, Byron Quinlan and Josh Hereford have committed to coaching. Swanson is Payson High School’s newly appointed boys basketball coach.
If there is a common denominator in Mayo’s coaching philosophy it is “hard work.”
When talking about goal setting, he often points to a good work ethic as the key to success.
“If (the players) work hard and make good decisions, they can achieve whatever they want,” he said.
Swanson also describes himself as a family man saying he has no particular hobbies or pastimes.
“I spend most of my (spare) time with my family,” he said. Mayo and his wife Jennifer have been married for three years and have a 1-year-old son, James.
Academically, Mayo graduated in 2005 from Arizona State University with a B.S. in geography. He obtained his teaching certification last January in Rio Salado’s Teacher Preparation Program. With the season still months away, Mayo has expressed an interest in getting to know parents, boosters and fans by inviting them to turn out for practice sessions.
“We want them to come out and see what we are doing, practices are always open,” he said.