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Delta State University Football In 2023: What To Know About The Statesmen

Delta State University Football In 2023: What To Know About The Statesmen

The Delta State University football team returns in 2023 as a member of the Gulf South Conference. Here’s what to know about the program.

Oct 6, 2023 by R. R. Ellis
Delta State University Football In 2023: What To Know About The Statesmen

According to the preseason poll by the coaches of the Gulf South Conference, Delta State was selected as the favorite to win the GSC title in 2023. The Statesmen received 61 points and six first-place votes, finishing five points ahead of the University of West Florida. 

Should the predictions ring true, Delta State would claim the title in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2010 and 2011. The Statesmen shared the crown in 2022 with West Florida, which also claimed a share in 2021.

Delta State and West Florida each turned in 6-1 conference records in 2022. Delta State won their head-to-head meeting in September in a 45-42 double-overtime thriller. The win ended a three-game losing streak in the series, which kicked off in 2016. 

Unfortunately for the Statesmen, West Florida got its revenge in November during the second round of the playoffs, winning 38-27. West Florida later lost to eventual national champion Ferris State, in the national semifinals.

Delta State finished the 2022 season with an 11-2 overall record, a vast improvement from a 5-6 effort in 2021.

In 2023, the Gulf South Conference will include nine teams (up from eight) and return three that finished with winning records in 2022. Among the returning teams are the title-winning University of West Florida and Delta State. 

Gulf South football action will be streamed live on FloFootball and the FloSports app, including all of Delta State’s Gulf South games.

Here’s What To Know About Delta State University Football:

What Year Did Delta State University Start Playing Football?

Delta State University first fielded a football team in 1926, two years after the school was founded as the Delta State Teachers College. The doors of the school opened in the summer of 1925.

The Statesmen were 1-5 in their inaugural campaign under W.J. Parks in 1926. They opened their history with five consecutive losses, before defeating Cleveland Independent 6-0.

The all-time football record at Delta State is 492-408-23, and the team has had 52 winning seasons.

In What Division Of College Football Does Delta State Play? 

Delta State University plays football in the NCAA’s Division II.

How Many Times Has Delta State Football Made It To The Playoffs?

Delta State has been to the Division II Playoffs 10 times–1998, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2022.

The Statesmen went on to claim regional championships in 2000, 2006, 2010 and 2011. 

The 2000 season ended with a Division II national championship. The Statesmen defeated Bloomsburg in the final, 63-34. Delta State finished the year at 14-1, with the lone loss coming to Arkansas Tech late in the regular season (24-10).

In 2010, Delta State fell short of a second national title, losing to Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game, 20-17.

Delta State’s all-time NCAA postseason record is 16-9. The Statesmen are 18-9 overall in bowl/postseason play. Their only bowl game came in 1959, when they defeated East Central Oklahoma in the Christmas Festival Bowl, 19-0.

When Did Delta State Football Join The Gulf South Conference?

Delta State University was one of the Gulf South Conference’s founding members in 1970. 

The conference originally was known as the Mid-South Athletic Conference or Mid-South Conference and included DSU, Florence State (now North Alabama), Jacksonville State, Livingston (now West Alabama), Tennessee-Martin and Troy State (now Troy).

The league officially changed its name to the Gulf South Conference for the 1971 season and started adding more schools. 

Has Delta State Football Ever Won The Gulf South Title?

Delta State has won the Gulf South title eight times–1998 (shared with West Georgia), 2000 (shared with Valdosta State and West Georgia), 2007, 2008, 2010 (shared with Henderson State and Valdosta Stat), 2011, 2014 (shared with North Alabama) and 2022 (shared with West Florida).

Who Is The Delta State University Football Head Coach?

Todd Cooley took the reigns at Delta State for the 2013 season, and he’ll be entering his 10th full season in 2023 (the 2020 campaign was canceled due to COVID-19). Overall, Cooley’s record at DSU is 57-42.

Cooley’s success at Delta State helped him earn Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2013 and 2014.

Prior to joining the staff at DSU, Cooley was the offensive coordinator at Northwestern Louisiana State University (2009-2012), University of Central Arkansas (2005-2008) and Arkansas Tech University (2004). He also made stops at Quachita Baptist University (2001-2003), Northeastern Oklahoma State (2000) and a first stint at Arkansas Tech (1998-1999).

Among his top successes, Cooley helped his alma mater, Arkansas Tech, and UCA to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. He also helped UCA to the Gulf South title in 2005.

As a player at Arkansas Tech, Cooley was the team’s quarterback and a finalist for the 1997 Harlon Hill Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player in Division II. 

Who Is Delta State Football’s Biggest Rival? 

Delta State and Mississippi College have a football rivalry that began in 1935. They’ve met 42 times in what is known as the Heritage Bell Classic, with Delta State holding the all-time advantage at 24-16-2. 

Mississippi College won the first meeting 33-0, kicking off a streak of four straight victories. Delta State has won nine of the last 10 meetings, including a 52-38 triumph in 2022.

The two teams battled annually while Mississippi College was part of the Gulf South Conference, and that streak lasted from 1973-1995. When MC returned to the GSC, the rivalry resumed (2014).

The winner of the matchup also takes possession of the Heritage Bell Classic trophy. 

The trophy was introduced in 1979 and features the scores of every meeting from 1935-1995 on its face. It also includes a small bell on top, with statuettes of a Choctaw and a Statesman on either side of it. 

Other longtime opponents for Delta State include: West Alabama (38-27-3), North Alabama (26-34-1), Valdosta State (21-19-1), West Georgia (20-17), Arkansas-Monticello (28-5) and Henderson State (20-4-1).

Where Do The Delta State University Statesmen Play Football?

The Delta State University football team plays in one of the Gulf South Conference’s oldest and most historic venues, Travis E. Parker Field at Horace L. McCool Stadium. It has been the team’s home since 1970.

The facility, which formerly was known as Delta Field and Travis E. Parker Field, seats more than 8,500. The first name change came in 1984 to honor Parker, a former member of the Mississippi Institutions of High Learning Board of Directors. 

McCool’s name was added to the mix in 2007. He was a longtime administrator and football coach at Delta State, winning 76 games in 14 seasons. He was responsible for the revival of the school’s women’s basketball program in the 1970s.

Where Is Delta State University?

Delta State University is located in Cleveland, Mississippi. It was established in 1924 as the Delta State Teachers College, using the facilities (three buildings) of the former Bolivar County Agricultural High School. The college officially opened its doors in 1925.

In 1955, the name of the institution was changed to Delta State College, and full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools came in 1963. Graduate programs were added in 1965. The continued growth resulted in another name change in 1974 to Delta State University.

Delta State also is well-known for its aviation program, which started in the 1980s.

Notable Delta State University Alums

Professional football players Jack Gregory, Anthony Maddox and Aubrey Matthews, musician Steve Azar, college basketball coach Steve Nagy and artist Rowan Nathaniel House.

Nine former Delta State football players have gone on to play in the NFL. Three were drafted.

Delta State University Football Schedule 2023

  • Aug. 31: at Missouri S&T, 6 p.m. ET
  • Sept. 9: at Chowan University, 1 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Sept. 16: Mississippi Valley State, 6 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Sept. 23: Shorter, 6 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Sept. 30: at University of West Alabama, 4 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 7: at Valdosta State University, 2 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 14: North Greenville University, 6 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 21: University of West Florida, 3 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Nov. 4: at University of West Georgia, 6 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Nov. 11: Mississippi College, 3 p.m. ET, FloSports