In memory of Jake Matthes (1937-2024)

Liberty University mourns the loss of Jake Matthes, the first head coach in the history of the Liberty cross country and track and field programs and a member of the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame. Matthes passed away Thursday, April 18 at the age of 86.

Matthes began Liberty’s cross country team in 1976 before starting the men’s track and field teams the following year. In his time at the helm of the Flames, he brought the program through four different levels of competition — the NCCAA, NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division I. 

As the coach of the men’s team, he earned multiple prestigious accolades, including the 1981 National Christian College Coach of the Year and the 1985 NCAA Division II South Region Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. 

Photo by Bob DeVaul

He also kick-started the women’s track and field and cross country programs in 1977, eventually leading 18 student-athletes to claim All-American honors at the NCCAA level, four at the NAIA level and three at the NCAA Division II level.

Today, the Flames’ outdoor track and field facility is named after Matthes, titled the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex. His name is paired with Ron Hopkins, who eventually took over the women’s programs after Matthes got them started.

Matthes was inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, commemorating his dedication to Liberty and its student-athletes in his 15 years of coaching at the university.

Written by the Champion Staff

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