Mathis decides to leave DeSoto for U of Houston

Calling it “the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,’’ Claude Mathis has announced plans to resign his position as DeSoto football head coach and accept an offer to become an assistant coach at the University of Houston.

Mathis, who was 36-14 in four seasons at DeSoto, revealed his intentions at the Eagles' football banquet Saturday night.

“I didn’t want the kids to hear it from anywhere except my mouth and rumors were starting to get out,’’ Mathis, 37, said Sunday. “Coaching in college has definitely been one of my goals. Eventually I’d like to be a coordinator and someday a head coach at that level. There’s a lot to learn. This is the next step.’’

But it didn’t make it any easier to inform his players.

“It was emotional,’’ said DeSoto athletic director Pam DeBorde. “Claude always wanted to be a college coach and he had opportunities last year that he turned down. I was 90 percent sure he was going to Houston before the banquet, but it wasn’t until his announcement that I was 100 percent sure.’’

Mathis said he first heard from the Cougars in early January while at the Under Armour High School All-America game in Florida. Several days passed before the parties met. Mathis said he didn’t make up his mind until Saturday.

Mathis added that officially he has not yet signed a contract with Houston or resigned at DeSoto.

New Houston head coach Tony Levine came to know Mathis at Southwest Texas State (now known as Texas State). Levine was wide receivers coach there when Mathis played running back, setting the school's career, season and game rushing records.

Mathis will coach running backs at Houston.

Mathis coached six high school seasons before landing a head coaching job at Somerville in 2004. He came to DeSoto after going 21-15 in a three-year head coaching stint at Austin LBJ.

DeSoto never failed to make the playoffs under Mathis. Dallas Skyline ended DeSoto’s season in the second playoff round in three of Mathis’ four seasons, including a 41-31 defeat in 2011 in what was apparently Mathis' final game as coach.

“I’m sad for us, but happy for him,’’ DeBorde said. “He’s not a standstill guy. He’s a young, vibrant coach with so many contacts. We were lucky for have him for four years.’’

DeBorde said she expects applicants to be “in the hundreds’’ for Mathis’ position as head coach and athletic coordinator.