-Jarvis Gatlin, Contributing Writer
The announcement that Mississippi College Athletics was moving to Division II was met with excitement around the campus. Every single sport would be affected by this move. For the first time since 1996, Mississippi College would begin Division II play for the 2014-2015 season. There was only one problem: The adjustment would be tough, and long.
Rebuilding is a term used in sports that refers to a team or a program starting all over from scratch in order to better position itself for the long run. For years prior, Mississippi College athletics excelled in Division III sports in almost every sport here on campus. Towards the end of the 2013-2014 athletic seasons, many student athletes and coaches knew that certain changes would be made.
While some athletes and coaches remained, some were let go. Norman Joseph, former head football coach here at Mississippi College, resigned and John Bland was brought in to begin the rebuild process. Needless to say, the football team had, what many expected, a rough season. “The goal for this season, is to improve,” said Coach Bland. “Obviously, the Gulf South Conference is the toughest division in DII in the nation. But I loved the way our coaches and our players continued to work hard and improve as the season progressed, despite losses.”
During the Christmas break, Coach Bland and his staff were busy recruiting and signing top community college players from the state of Mississippi. “The guys we brought in are top notch athletes, but most importantly, good young Christian men. They will mesh in well with the current crop of players we have. It will be healthy competition that this team needs.”
Football wasn’t the only sport busy during the transfer period. The baseball team made some huge adjustments and seems to be all in for a rebuild process. Only three players from last year’s roster returned. “Our goal was to beef up the roster,” said Coach Brian Owens. “The transition from Division III to Division II was an adjustment that required changes.” “We got a good mix of JUCO players, as well as incoming freshmen,” Owens added. “The roster of guys we have all depend on each other and lean on each other for leadership.”
The baseball team missed the playoffs last year, but Coach Owens sees a rise of the baseball program. “Our guys play hard. We have instilled in them to play efficient,” he said. “The overall goal is to improve our record from last year and make some noise in the playoffs.”
The basketball team sits at a respectable 7-7 record, 3-3 at home and 4-4 on the road. The basketball team brought in many transfers, but left the core of last year’s team intact, a strategy that is used in many different levels of athletics. The stiff competition in the Gulf South Conference figured to give the basketball team many difficulties, but to the surprise of many, they sit at a respectable .500 record after 14 games of play. Overall, the buzz around the campus is a breath of fresh air for the students, staff, and athletes alike. Despite the rebuilding of various sports on campus, one thing remains intact: The competitive drive of the Choctaws. Go Chocs!!