Missouri Southern State University has named Joplin native Atiba Bradley as the 14th head football coach in the school’s history. He becomes the first graduate of Missouri Southern to lead the Lions football program.
“I’m extremely excited and honored for the opportunity to lead this football program,” said Bradley. “This is a position that is near and dear to my heart, a coveted position that returns me home and keeps me home for the future.”
Bradley’s coaching career has seen him develop strong Midwestern ties at a variety of levels. He comes to Missouri Southern from NCAA Division II McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill., where he was the Bearcats’ defensive coordinator. Prior to that, he served as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at NCAA Division I FCS University of South Dakota from January 2016 through December 2018. From 2013-16, Bradley was the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at NCAA Division I FCS Western Illinois.
He was also defensive coordinator at NCAA Division II Quincy University (Illinois) for the 2012 season. Bradley served as a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri from 2008-10. He was a student assistant and graduate assistant for the Lions from 2006-08 and was the team’s assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator from 2010-12 under head coach Bart Tatum.
As a player at MSSU, Bradley was a two-time All-MIAA honorable mention pick as a linebacker. During his senior season, he finished as Missouri Southern’s second-leading tackler with 72 stops (30 solo), including 9.5 for losses and one sack. Bradley was ninth in the MIAA that year in tackles. In his career, Bradley finished with 224 tackles, including 17.5 for a loss of 69 yards, 6.5 sacks for a loss of 52 yards, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception for a return of 37 yards.
A graduate of Joplin High School, Bradley played on the offensive and defensive lines where he was a first-team all-conference, all-district and all-area performer and a second-team all-state selection for the Eagles.
“I am delighted that we have identified Atiba Bradley as the next leader of the Missouri Southern football program,” said Dr. Dean Van Galen, MSSU president.
“Coach Bradley will bring strong and diverse experience at the DII and FCS levels. In addition to his outstanding experience and leadership skills, I was very impressed with his energy and his plan to build a highly competitive program that includes a commitment to the development of the student-athlete that emphasizes academic success. As an MSSU graduate and former Lion football player and coach, Abita has a unique perspective on how to build a program at our university that is successful and sustainable. It is clear that this is where Coach Bradley wants to be.”
Associate Vice President for Development Kevin Greim served as chair of the search committee. Other committee members included Assistant Athletics Director Cori Reid; Dean of the Plaster College of Business and Faculty Athletics Representative Dr. Jeff Zimmerman; 1996 MSSU graduate and Lions Football alum Cedric Florence; and 1982 MSSU graduate and Lions Football alum Marty Schoenthaler. Missouri Southern received 140 official applications and dozens more inquiries about the position.
“Our search committee was committed from day one to identifying the best possible candidates for interviews and to moving through this process as quickly as possible,” said Greim.
“To say that we appreciate the commitment of our committee members is a considerable understatement. We would not have been able to visit with and evaluate the caliber of candidates we did without the time, energy and thorough attention they dedicated to this process. We were so pleased with the quality of our candidate pool.”
Of his new team, Bradley said, “I want to build a program that our community can be proud of. We are going to be a tough, physical team that will play with energy, enthusiasm and purpose. Lions Football will be a program represented by young men that people want to support and be associated with. We’ll be reaching out to all Lions past and present to help us build a championship program.”
Bradley and his wife, Jacquelyn, also a graduate of Missouri Southern, have three children, Briauna, Kiara and Marcus.
Bradley will be formally introduced at a press conference next week. Details will be released at a later time. MSSU campus policy currently limits campus gatherings for non-university personnel to 50 people. Therefore, the press conference will not be open to the public but will be streamed live.