Vicksburg High football coach McDaniel leaving for job at Ridgeland

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

The coach who turned around Vicksburg High’s struggling football program and led it to its best season in more than 20 years is moving on.

Head coach Todd McDaniel announced Thursday that he is resigning to become the head football coach and athletic director at Ridgeland High School.

“Ridgeland High opened up another avenue for myself. It’s giving me an opportunity to be an athletic director and to be part of the administrative part,” McDaniel said. “I appreciate them for giving me this opportunity. It’s a great opportunity to advance my career.”

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McDaniel was hired by Ridgeland on Wednesday, and submitted his resignation at VHS Thursday. The resignation was subject to approval by the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting Thursday night.

VWSD athletic director James Lewis said he was already beginning the process of finding McDaniel’s successor, and hoped to have them in place for formal approval before the next school board meeting on April 27.

Vicksburg is scheduled to begin its spring football practice period in mid-April.

“You want to have a really good process and don’t want to rush it. We want to take our time. But we would love to have something ready for the next school board meeting,” Lewis said.

McDaniel was hired at Vicksburg in 2020 and posted a 21-16 record in his three seasons. The Gators had one winning season in the 11 years prior to McDaniel’s arrival, but had a quick turnaround under his watch.

After going 4-8 in 2020, the Gators went 7-5 in 2021 and 10-3 in 2022. Last year’s team won the program’s first region championship since 1990 and reached the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals for the first time since 2001.

A number of Vicksburg’s starters in 2022 and projected starters in 2023 entered the lineup as freshmen in McDaniel’s first season. He said telling them goodbye over the past two days as he made phone calls and met with the team was difficult.

“It’s extremely tough. Those juniors have been with me all three years, and a lot of them started as freshmen. To see those guys grow up all the way from freshmen to being seniors very soon, yeah it was tough leaving the relationships that I have with the coaches and my athletes,” McDaniel said. “It was a father-son bond, or an uncle-nephew bond. Those guys really believed in everything we said and you could see it on the field. It’s been a tough day talking to every last one of them.”

McDaniel had similar praise and thank-yous for his coaches and the administration at Vicksburg High.

“Vicksburg has really been good to me. The kids have been wonderful. They’ve bought in, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I had one of the best coaching staffs that I’ve ever had. Great program, great administration, great support from my parents. I couldn’t ask for anything more from Vicksburg,” he said.

The chance to be an athletic director as well as a head coach was something that McDaniel said he couldn’t pass up. He has compiled 103 wins in 14 seasons as a head coach at Hazlehurst, Terry, Jim Hill and Vicksburg, and turning an eye toward the administrative side of education was something he wanted to pursue.

“It gives me an opportunity to reach out and branch out to all the other sports and all the other student-athletes in the school district, as far as being able to mentor and provide everything that they need and as much as we possibly can,” McDaniel said. “In the long run, you’re able to fulfill some of the things that you always wanted to fulfill. Vicksburg has done a wonderful job of supporting me. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Although he’s heading to a new school, McDaniel will not be a stranger to Vicksburg High. His old team and new one are both in Region 2-6A next season and will play each other in the regular-season finale on Nov. 3.

“I imagine they’re going to have blood in their eyes,” McDaniel said with a laugh. “They’ve been around me for three years, so automatically they’re going to want to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer. It’s going to be a great game. It’s going to be great seeing those young men. I’m going to definitely miss them.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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