CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For the third time in five years, East Mississippi Community College head football coach Buddy Stephens has been named the NJCAA Football Coach of the Year. The announcement was made Wednesday by the NJCAA national office headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
"I'm incredibly honored and humbled to represent all of the great players and coaches we've had here at East Mississippi Community College through the years," Stephens said. "We've had a great group of kids this season that did a fantastic job overcoming some adversity. This is a team honor and a representation of the commitment made by many individuals associated with our proud college."
Having previously received the NJCAA's national coaching honor last year and in 2014, Stephens guided this year's EMCC Lions team to a fifth NJCAA national championship, seventh MACJC state title and ninth MACJC North Division regular-season crown during his 11th season at the East Mississippi football helm. The Lions capped their fourth perfect 12-0 season in the past eight years with a 10-9 victory over second-ranked Garden City (KS) Community College during this year's nationally televised (CBS Sports Network) NJCAA eTeamSponsor Football National Championship game played Nov. 29 at Pittsburg State University's Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kansas. EMCC previously went unbeaten on the gridiron during the 2011 campaign and then again consecutively in 2013 and 2014.
"I'm also very thankful and humbled by the fact that EMCC was able to represent the NJCAA in the first live televised national championship junior college football game," Stephens added. "It was a monumental event during a very important time for the growth of the NJCAA."
While becoming just the second NJCAA member school to claim back-to-back national football championships twice (2013-14 & 2017-18), East Mississippi currently trails only Butler (KS) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for most national football titles (six apiece) in NJCAA history. Butler won consecutive NJCAA football championships in 1998-99 and again in 2007-08.
Showcasing an impressive 11-year head coaching record of 110-13 (.894), EMCC's Stephens is currently tied for sixth place (with Iowa Western's Scott Strohmeier) among the NJCAA's winningest active head football coaches. Having won nearly 90 percent of his games at East Mississippi, the seven-time Region 23 Coach of the Year recipient also ranks as the NJCAA's all-time leader in career winning percentage for head football coaches with at least 100 career games coached.
In addition, Stephens' EMCC Lions have amassed an eight-year composite record of 86-5 (.945) dating back to their first of five national championship seasons. Along with the six MACJC state titles (2011, '13-14 & '16-18) claimed since 2011, that span also includes winning streaks of 25 and 20 consecutive games along with a pair of 17-game win strings.
Owners of a current streak of having been ranked in 105 consecutive NJCAA football polls, including preseason and final rankings, spanning back to their 2011 national championship season, the 2018 Lions became Stephens' first EMCC ballclub to run the table as the NJCAA's No. 1-ranked football team beginning with this year's preseason rankings, throughout the regular season and in the final poll.
Featuring six NJCAA All-Americans, this year's Lions squad tied Iowa Western Community College for the most 2018 recipients nationally as well as matching the 2013 EMCC team's mark of a half dozen All-Americans in one season. EMCC has now produced a total of 32 NJCAA All-Americans during Stephens' 11 seasons at the East Mississippi helm, including nine quarterback selections and seven defensive linemen.