MSSU introduces Bradley as head football coach

Atiba Bradley speaks for the first time as the Lions head coach.

JOPLIN, Mo. – Atiba Bradley made history on Wednesday afternoon, being introduced as Missouri Southern’s next head football coach.

Bradley is the first black head coach in Missouri Southern history.

“I think right now there’s five head coaches in Division II, I think there’s nine in all divisions,” Bradley says, “I don’t take these opportunities lightly. This is a big deal, because I set the standard for a lot of kids looking up, no different than I looked up to a lot of athletes and coaches like Herm Edwards, and some of those guys that came before me that kind of paved the way for me.”

It’s a homecoming for Bradley.

He played for the Lions from 2002-2005, before beginning his coaching career at both the Division I and Division II levels.

“When I was young with no kids, it was fun to travel. It was fun to go to different universities and learn,” he says, “Now as I get older and my kids are getting older, it’s good to have them around friends and family and have a little bit of a support net.”

(Van Galen) “He had the personal qualities that I think will really build a great culture and a great program here at Missouri Southern,” says Dean Van Galen, Missouri Southern President, “He has roots here as a native of Joplin, a Missouri Southern graduate and a former football player.”

Bradley takes over a program that didn’t get on the field last fall and is 5-39 since 2016.

“I’m not naive. It’s not going to be easy,” Bradley says of taking over the program, “This is a tough league with great competition, but I’m excited to be back and get this thing turned.”

Now that he’s the guy, Bradley aims to help the Lions climb the MIAA, including the Crimson and Gold guys down the road.

“I think that’s the beauty of college athletics, that we get to play a team that is 20 minutes down the road,” Bradley says of the rivalry with Pittsburg State, “We seem them in recruiting, we see them in the league and we see them a lot. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to beat them. That’s part of being here at Missouri Southern.”

Bradley hopes to have his coaching staff completed by next week. He says he plans for MSSU interim head coach Joe Bettasso to remain on the staff.