SEMO FB seeking to go from 'good to great' as spring practice opens

Southeast Missouri State football coach Tom Matukewicz speaks with his team during spring practice last year at Houck Field.
Tom Davis ~

There are six pages distributed each game week by the Southeast Missouri State media relations department chronicling the accomplishments of 10th-year Redhawk football coach Tom Matukewicz. However, if you listen to Matukewicz speak in advance of the opening of spring practice on Wednesday, he comes across as a guy who is hungry for success as a coach on his first day on the job.

SEMO will open the spring with the first of 15 practices over the next month, culminating with its annual spring game on April 21, which will be played at Scott City High School.

“I think like with any program,” Matukewicz said, “it goes through life cycles and stages. We’ve gotten the program to where we’ve had really good results. Now, can we go from good to great?”

Laying just feet behind Matukewicz, as he sits at his desk in the Rosengarten Athletic Complex, is a stack of 20 books on leadership and success, one of which is “Good to Great,” by author Jim Collins.

That is the overriding theme for 2023 for the Redhawks, who have evolved into a really good FCS program but have only knocked on the door of being great.

“Our expectations,” Matukewicz continued, “are no longer, just winning the (Ohio Valley Conference).”

At that point, Matukewicz caught himself and had to think about what he had just said.

“I can’t believe that I am saying that,” Matukewicz said. “I want to vomit when I say that. There was a time here when a winning record should be celebrated.

“But we have grown, and we have changed.”

The Redhawks won the second OVC championship in November under Matukewicz, who not only has more wins than any other SEMO coach during the FCS Division I era but the most league victories, as well.

“For some reason,” Matukewicz said, “that doesn’t feel like that is enough.”

The albatross that hangs around the Redhawks’ neck is competing on a national stage, particularly, against the Big Sky Conference.

The 2022 season ended with a stunning 34-24 loss at Montana in the FCS Playoffs, a game in which SEMO led 24-3 with less than 24 minutes remaining in it.

Matukewicz has taken his team “out west” three times and gotten handled all three times, once by Weber State (48-23) and another time by Montana State (38-17).

“We are challenging each other,” Matukewicz explained, “and trying to get some of those things that great teams have.”

For example, no SEMO team has ever won 10 games, as well as a top seed in the FCS Playoffs, where you are guaranteed a home game in the playoffs and producing the highest NFL Draft selection in program history.

“There are all of these types of things that we want to try and accomplish,” Matukewicz said, “and they would dictate whether we have a great season, and that is what we are trying to do.”

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