Beginning his 11th season as head coach, Buddy Stephens is the architect behind East Mississippi Community College’s decade of championship football. Since his arrival on the Scooba campus in December 2007, Stephens has completely transformed EMCC’s football program into a perennial powerhouse currently unrivaled in the NJCAA gridiron ranks.
Having taken over a program that hadn’t managed a winning football season during the decade prior to his arrival and had only made one previous state playoff appearance in school history, Stephens has won 88 percent of his games as EMCC’s head football coach, including four NJCAA national championships, six MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 titles, eight MACJC North Division crowns and six postseason bowl game victories. Presently ranking as the NJCAA’s all-time leader in career winning percentage for coaches with 100 or more career games coached, Stephens enters the 2018 campaign needing two wins to eclipse the century mark for career coaching victories while breaking into the NJCAA’s Top 10 list among the winningest active coaches.
Dating back to the 2008 season, Stephens owns a decade-long head coaching overall record of 98-13 (.883) at East Mississippi, including composite marks of 56-4 (.933) in regular-season division play and 12-3 (.800) in MACJC playoff contests. Including separate winning streaks of 25, 20 and 17 consecutive games, the Lions are 74-5 (.937) collectively with five double-digit win seasons dating back to the start of the 2011 campaign. Additionally, Stephens’ EMCC teams are undefeated in championship contests with an unblemished 4-0 record in NJCAA national championship games and a perfect 6-0 mark in MACJC state title tilts.
Adding to the school’s previous three national titles earned during a dominating four-year span (2011-14), Stephens’ 2017 EMCC Lions became the first member of the highly acclaimed Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) to capture four national football championships, as recognized by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), with last year’s 31-28 victory over Arizona Western in Mississippi Bowl X. Stephens also became just the second head football coach in NJCAA history to guide four national championship teams, joining Hank Norton of former NJCAA member (now NCAA Division III) Ferrum (Va.) College. With four national championships during a remarkable seven-year stretch, East Mississippi trails only Butler (Kan.) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for most national football titles (six apiece) in NJCAA history.
EMCC’s unprecedented run of consistent gridiron success has also secured six MACJC state titles over the last nine seasons. While the Lions had only made one previous MACJC state playoff appearance (1984) in the history of the school’s football program, Stephens’ teams have been yearly frontrunners for the state crown with initial championships in 2009 and 2011 followed more recently by back-to-back titles in 2013-14 and again in 2016-17.
For his outstanding coaching efforts throughout his career at East Mississippi Community College, Stephens has twice been selected the American Community College Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year and Spalding® NJCAA Football Coach of the Year. The six-time NJCAA Region 23 Coach of the Year honoree is also a two-time recipient of the Junior College National Coach of the Year as awarded by American Football Monthly magazine. In addition, Stephens received the George Sekul Award from the All-American Football Foundation in 2011.
Stephens’ coaching success at East Mississippi goes hand in hand with the individual accomplishments that his players continue to achieve beyond the Scooba campus. While an average of nearly 25 EMCC football players annually move on to compete at the four-year level, Stephens has coached a total of 26 NJCAA All-Americans during his tenure, including seven All-America quarterbacks. In addition, 50 former EMCC players competed at the university level during the last year’s college football season. The Lions have also had five players selected in the NFL Draft under his guidance, including the Ole Miss tandem of defensive lineman D.J. Jones and quarterback Chad Kelly during the 2017 NFL Draft.
Likewise among the collegiate coaching ranks, more than a dozen former EMCC assistant coaches under Stephens’ leadership are currently on FBS coaching staffs throughout the country, including three in the SEC and two in the Big Ten.
Stephens arrived at East Mississippi after spending the previous seven seasons as an assistant coach at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss. During Stephens’ stint at PRCC, the Wildcats posted a composite record of 60‐12 (.833), including an NJCAA championship in 2004 and four consecutive MACJC state titles (2003-06).
Before his community college coaching career began in 2001, Stephens spent eight years at the high school level in Alabama and Louisiana.
Following an initial stop at Pearl River CC as a two‐year offensive lineman, Stephens continued his playing career at Delta State University. Upon earning his bachelor’s degree in education, he began his 27‐year coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. Stephens received his first taste of full‐time coaching experience at Louisiana-Monroe, where he completed his master’s degree in 1992.
A native of Huntsville, Ala., Stephens is married to the former Robyn Lynn Douglas of Bogalusa, La. They have three daughters – Lauren, Julianna, and Rebekah.