Cooley, who’s most recent coaching stint was as a offensive coordinator at Northwestern Louisiana, succeeded previous head coach Jamey Chadwell who left earlier this month to become the head football coach at Charleston Southern University. DSU first announced the hiring on Friday.
Cooley’s introduction was met with a warm reception as he was fired up about taking the job at a school that has made the NCAA Division II Playoffs seven times with six Gulf South Conference Championships and a national championship in 2000 with a trip to the title game in 2010.
“We have tradition,” Cooley, 37, said. “I’m not a big slogan guy. My only thing is when we’re trying to build a football team, we want to build a family. We already have a family in the athletic department. I can tell you that after three days. We have a family on this university. This is a family atmosphere, and I’m proud to be apart of it, but we’re going to build a family football team.
“In order to build a family, you have to realize where you came from. Since 1998, we’ve had six conference championships, a national championship and been in the national semifinals three times. We have tradition. We’re going to sell that tradition. We’re going to embrace that tradition and build upon it,” Cooley added.
Cooley is familiar with the GSC as he played quarterback at Arkansas Tech in 1996 and 97 and was an assistant coach at Ouachita Baptist (2001-03), Arkansas Tech (1998-99 and 2004) and the University of Central Arkansas (2005-08).
Cooley said he has always had respect for DSU.
“For four years as a football player and seven years as football coach in the Gulf South Conference, I knew how special it was when you played Delta State University,” Cooley said. “I knew what their athletic programs represented. When you played them in basketball, when you got after them in swimming, you better be ready to go especially in football. When you got that schedule out in the summer, you better have that game circled.”
Cooley wants to play for championships and play with that winning swagger, but he also wants to make sure the players take care of their work in the classroom and set a good example in the community.
“We’re going to constantly strive to be champions on and off the field,” Cooley said. “We’re going to build that family environment to where our young men can come in and look at our coaching staff as father figures and they can share their problems with us and we can help them with those problems. My whole reason that I coach football is to mentor young men and that’s what we’re going to do here.”
Cooley comes to DSU at a tough time as national signing day is just eight days away on Feb. 6.
Cooley said the players on the campus are his most important concern right now.
“The first thing, I’m going to do is I’ve got to recruit the team that is on this campus first,” Cooley said. “I’m their third head football coach they’ve had in three years. For some of these young men, I’m the third father figure they’ve had in three years. I’ve got to recruit them first. I want to make sure that these guys know I’m important they're important and I'm going to be here.”
According to Cooley, recruiting the state, especially the local area, will be another one of his main goals.
“We want to keep our homegrown talent in our backyard,” Cooley said. “The state of Mississippi will be a priority, especially here locally. It’s who we are. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Cooley said his coaching staff hasn’t been finalized but would like to be able to get his staff in place immediately after signing day.