Discover more from Blue & Gold Media at Mississippi College
Bland Stepping Down
Long-time Choctaw football coach John Bland will pursue other coaching opportunities.
Following their 41-3 loss to Delta State in the Heritage Bell Classic, the Mississippi College football program announced that John Bland will be stepping down after ten years with the program. Bland was 26-66 in nine full seasons with the team, having had the 2020 season cut short by COVID-19, and is 101-90 all-time.
“In coaching, you get to a point where you get so many years in and you see where the program is, and sometimes it’s not where you were hoping it would be,” athletic director Kenny Bizot said. “That was kind of the case that we ran into with Coach Bland.” Bizot went on to express appreciation for the work Bland and his staff have done in their time with the program.
Hired in January 2014, Bland was tasked with guiding the MC football program through its transition from Division III to Division II and the Gulf South Conference. Each year under his leadership, the team saw steady improvement, going from just one win in 2014 to a record 5-5 in an exciting 2019 season, which featured a 37-13 win over Delta State, an undefeated record at Robinson-Hale Stadium, and multiple All-GSC performers.
However, immediately following that season, the program was hit hard by COVID. Facing recruiting restrictions from the NCAA and the university itself, much of the momentum the program had just gained seemed to disappear. 2021 and 2022 featured 4-7 teams that beat the teams they should have, but were never able to get over the hump against stiff GSC competition. Then, in 2023, their record fell to just 3-7, with wins over Shorter (3-8, 1-7 GSC), Chowan (0-8, 0-10 GSC), and Keiser, an NAIA team.
However, Bland’s legacy is not just defined by wins and losses. “For Coach Bland, his legacy is going to be that he was an incredible leader for his student athletes,” Bizot said. “He was a tremendous individual in our athletic department … he was a great ambassador for Mississippi College athletics and Mississippi College football.”
That model is not going away either, as Bizot says that Bland’s successor should possess many of the same qualities that made him such a good ambassador for the program and university.
“They have to fit the mission of Mississippi College,” Bizot said. “I think we’re building something special here in our athletic department, and I want to make sure that individual comes in and fits right into what we’ve been trying to do for the last three years.”
Bizot made it very clear that the new coach also needs to be someone who can take the program to a different level than it has existed at in recent years.
“He’s got to be a dynamic person … he’s got to go out and own the state of Mississippi in recruiting in our niche. And I know we need to have someone our players will believe in.”
He went on to stress the importance of having a coach who will build excitement throughout the Mississippi College community. Bizot says he wants a coach who will be a dynamic speaker who will get students engaged, bring in new boosters, and create more involvement from the fanbase as a whole.
The search for the new Choctaw football head coach is starting immediately. In the current college football landscape, athletic departments cannot afford to take their time with these decisions, and Bizot is aware of that. His target date for a new hire is mid-December. Bizot says that the program will not settle, and he expects to have several good candidates to choose from.
“I’m expecting my phone to be ringing,” Bizot said. “Already had a couple calls.”
Thanks for reading Blue & Gold Media at Mississippi College! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.