Throughout the past decade, Buddy Stephens has completely changed the expectation levels of the football program at East Mississippi Community College. EMCC’s ninth-year head football coach has made winning games and claiming championships the new norm on the Scooba campus after taking command of a program that hadn’t managed a winning football season the previous decade and with only one prior state playoff appearance in school history prior to his arrival.
Owning an eight-year overall coaching record of 76-11 at East Mississippi, including a composite 45-3 (.938) mark in MACJC North Division play, Stephens tops all active NJCAA football coaches nationally in career winning percentage with an 87.4-percent success rate with the Lions. Those spectacular numbers have produced an unprecedented three national championships over the past five seasons, along with generating four MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 championships and seven regular-season division titles dating back to the 2008 season.
Culminating with EMCC’s 34-17 win over Iowa Western during the 2014 Mississippi Bowl in Biloxi, Stephens became the first football coach in the history of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) to secure three NJCAA championships. Winners of 52 of their last 55 contests dating back five seasons, including separate winning streaks of 25 and 20 consecutive games, Stephens’ Lions knocked off Georgia Military in the 2013 Mississippi Bowl as well as Arizona Western during the 2011 El Toro Bowl played in Yuma, Ariz., to claim previous national titles for EMCC.
For his outstanding coaching efforts throughout his career at East Mississippi Community College, Stephens is a two-time recipient of the coveted American Community College Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year honor along with being named the 2014 Spalding NJCAA Football Coach of the Year. The four-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 23 EMCC football players annually move on to compete at the university level, Stephens has coached a total of 22 NJCAA All-America players during his tenure. This past April, former EMCC/University of Alabama defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Seattle Seahawks) became the third Lion standout under Stephens’ guidance to be chosen in the NFL Draft, joining prior draft selections Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore Ravens in 2015) and Quinton Dial (San Francisco 49ers in 2013).
Likewise in the coaching ranks, as many as a dozen former EMCC assistant coaches under Stephens’ guidance have moved on to coach at the university level, including four currently assisting on Southeastern Conference football staffs.
Stephens arrived on the Scooba campus in December 2007 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 25‐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.