Donnie Suber was named head coach at Cumberland University on January 28, 2013, the fifth head coach of the program since it was revived in 1990. He just finished his fifth year as head coach and 10th season at Cumberland, serving as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. He has worked as an assistant or head coach at the collegiate level for the past 25 years, 14 of those at CU.
Suber has compiled a 28-27 mark over five seasons as head coach with the Phoenix, including a combined 13-9 in his first two campaigns and 7-4 in 2017. Cumberland rebounded from a disappointing 3-8 year in 2015 that with a 5-6 mark in 2016 included four losses by a combined 15 points. This season the Phoenix lost in the final three minutes to FCS Presbyterian College and dropped contests to three teams ranked in the NAIA Top 25 nationally, all on the road, two of which reached the quarterfinals in the NAIA playoffs.
During his tenure as head coach, CU has earned 36 First or Second Team All-Mid-South Conference honors while collecting a pair of MSC Defensive Player of the Year accolades. In addition 93 players have been named Academic All-Mid-South and 42 have garnered Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete recognition.
The Phoenix continued their recent winning ways in Suber's first year at the helm of the program, winning four straight games in the middle of the year and seven of the final nine outings to finish 7-4, the club's fourth consecutive winning season. Nathan Jernigan was voted the Mid-South Conference West Division Freshman of the Year while Michael Nwokoji, AJ Harmon, Beau Baker and Nick Lennox were named First Team All-Mid-South Conference West. In addition Reed Gurchiek, Tucker Cathey, Simon Moriarty, Jernigan and Tyler Emmetts garnered Second Team All-MSC selection.
Cumberland also led the Mid-South Conference with 28 Academic All-MSC selections and ranked No. 1 in the nation for the second straight year with 16 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
In 2014 the Phoenix ended the year 6-5 overall, losing its last three games thanks to a slew of injuries. Six players garnered All-Mid-South Conference recognition, including defenders Grant Jones, Justus Dauscha and Jernigan on the First Team and Cayman Russell on the Second Team.
Cumberland stood 3-3 midway through the 2015 campaign after a pair of victories and two early-season defeats to NCAA Division II institutions. Injuries and a sluggish offense led to a five-game losing streak to end the year, the program's first losing season since 2009 and its worst record since a 2-8 mark in 2005. Eight players earned All-MSC honors, including defenders Russell and Jernigan on the First Team and Dauscha on the Second Team.
Jernigan was voted MSC West Co-Defensive Player of the Year and First Team Academic All-America as well.
Cumberland's defense allowed 61.1 less rushing yards per game in 2016, helping the unit improve from 59th to 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game (140.4) and gave up 12.0 fewer points per game, going from 72nd to 45th nationally. The unit also posted 28 sacks, ranking 21st in the country.
CU lost 33-29 in the season opener to Lindsey Wilson and dropped a 27-26 decision on the road at D-II Mississippi College on a last-second field goal. The club also dropped a 31-28 decision at Faulkner University and lost the season finale, 23-16, at FCS East Tennessee State.
Four Cumberland players received All-MSC accolades, including defenders Dauscha and Jernigan, with Jernigan earning his second straight MSC West Defensive Player of the Year honor.
In 2017 the Phoenix posted four straight victories to open the year, the best start to a season at CU since 2000, and finished 7-4 overall. Nine players were voted All-Mid-South Conference Bluegrass Division, including defenders Donovan Norfleet, Cody Carr and DeAnthony Patrick. Cumberland posted six defensive touchdowns this season with three interceptions and three fumbles turned into scores.
Cumberland's defense has made significant improvements in Suber’s 10 years at CU. The Phoenix were ranked 47th or lower in every defensive statistical category in Suber's first season as coordinator in 2008 but improved to 16th nationally in scoring defense along with eighth in pass defense, 21st in opponent first downs and 28th in total defense in 2009.
Cumberland led the Mid-South Conference in almost every defensive category in 2010 and ranked in the Top 10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense, pass defense, sacks, third down conversions and opponent first downs, leading the nation in opponent third down conversions (.277).
The unit forced 32 turnovers in 2009 and 2011 and 29 in 2010, a big jump over the 19 opponent miscues in his first year back at CU. The squad racked up 52 interceptions during that span, including 18 in 2009, 15 in 2010 and 19 in 2011.
The defense played a major role in the team’s offensive production in 2011 as well, with the Phoenix scoring 120 points (17 touchdowns, 1 field goal) off opponent miscues. Cumberland scored off an opponent turnover in 16 straight games from October 23, 2010, at Bethel University until September 22, 2012, at UVA-Wise. From 2008-11, Cumberland posted 95 total sacks, including 32 in 2010 and 24 in 2009. Over the last four years CU has registered 106 total sacks with at least 25 sacks per year.
Cumberland has scored 31 defensive touchdowns with six safeties and two blocked two punts recovered for TDs during Suber's tenure.
Suber earned his bachelor's in Recreation and Hotel Management from Georgia Southern in 1990 and played on NCAA Division I-AA national championship teams as a defensive back in 1986, 1989 and 1990.
His first coaching position was at Cumberland University as the defensive backs coach and strength coach as a graduate assistant. Suber earned his master's from Cumberland in Organizational Behavior in 1993.
He returned to his alma mater in 1994 as the restricted earnings coach in charge of defensive backs before coming back to Cumberland for two years in 1995-96 as defensive backs coach and men’s and women’s golf coach. The Columbia, S.C., native then spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Newberry College.
In 2001 he held the same positions at Benedict College before serving as the linebackers coach in 2002 and then the receivers coach from 2003-06 at Presbyterian College.
Suber is married to the former Brandy Norris of Atlanta, Ga., and they have two boys, Bryce (20) and Quinn (17).
Suber's Coaching Career
|2017||Head Coach||Cumberland University||7-4|
|2016||Head Coach||Cumberland University||5-6|
|2015||Head Coach||Cumberland University||3-8|
|2014||Head Coach||Cumberland University||6-5|
|2013||Head Coach||Cumberland University||7-4|
|2012||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||8-3|
|2011||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||7-3|
|2010||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||8-3|
|2009||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||5-6|
|2008||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||6-5|
|2006||Assistant Coach||Presbyterian College||7-4|
|2005||Assistant Coach||Presbyterian College||10-2||NCAA Division II Playoffs|
|2004||Assistant Coach||Presbyterian College||6-5|
|2003||Assistant Coach||Presbyterian College||4-6|
|2002||Assistant Coach||Presbyterian College||8-3|
|2001||Assistant Coach||Benedict College|
|2000||Assistant Coach||Newberry College||4-7|
|1999||Assistant Coach||Newberry College||5-6|
|1998||Assistant Coach||Newberry College||6-5|
|1997||Assistant Coach||Newberry College||4-7|
|1996||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||8-2|
|1995||Assistant Coach||Cumberland University||4-6|
|1994||Assistant Coach||Georgia Southern||6-5|
|1993||Graduate Assistant||Cumberland University||9-2||NAIA Playoffs|
|1992||Graduate Assistant||Cumberland University||2-8|