By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations; featured graphic by Brad Welborn, NSU Sports Information
NATCHITOCHES – A youthful veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks with a track record of success at multiple stops, Blaine McCorkle has been named the 16th head football coach in Northwestern State history.
NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones and Director of Athletics Kevin Bostian made the announcement Tuesday morning. There will be a introductory news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Stroud Room, located in the Donald G. Kelly Athletic Complex, to welcome McCorkle and his family to Northwestern State and its supporters. The event is open to the public.
“The opportunity to be back at the FCS level where I’ve spent the majority of my career is something I’ve wanted for a long time,” said McCorkle, who spent the previous six seasons as the head coach at Division III Belhaven in Jackson, Mississippi. “It is a pure level of college football that plays for the right reasons. I’m excited to be back at that level. I’m also excited for the challenge of rebuilding – not building – Northwestern State because Northwestern State has been there before. The campus has a lot to offer. The town has a lot to offer. I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to restore a program a lot of people take a lot of pride in.”
McCorkle arrives at Northwestern State following six years as the head coach at Belhaven where he took the Blazers from a two-win team the year ahead of his arrival to a nine-win season in 2023, an outright USA South Conference championship – the first such title in Belhaven program history – and the program’s first berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
In his final three seasons, McCorkle led the Blazers to a 24-7 overall record. The 17-4 mark across the 2022-23 seasons marked the most wins in a two-year span in program history and helped McCorkle earn three American Southwest Conference/USA South Coach of the Year awards, including the 2023 honor.
That success came after McCorkle inherited a Belhaven program that had not won more than three games in a season since 2013.
“When we began this search with Kyle Bowlsby and Bowlsby Sports Advisors, we prioritized program building as one of our anchor points,” Director of Athletics Kevin Bostian said. “Coach McCorkle’s track record as a head coach showed that. His time as an assistant at several FCS programs showed that promise. He was a pivotal part of staffs that rebuilt and restored the legacy of some of the top FCS programs in the country – programs that have been where we want to go. In addition to being a program builder, coach McCorkle is invested in his student-athletes. From talking to other coaches he has worked with and worked for, that was readily apparent. He is focused on giving student-athletes who compete for him everything they need to be successful, on and off the field. We want to welcome Blaine and Gina and their four children – Gracie, Emma, Audrey and Stanley – to the Northwestern State family.”
McCorkle, 47, has been an assistant coach at six FCS institutions – Delaware, Richmond, Liberty, Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga and UT Martin – and has additional coaching experience at Division III Sewanee. Twenty of his 26 seasons as a coach have come at the FCS level.
An offensive line coach throughout his coaching career, McCorkle’s inquisitive nature set him apart from his fellow assistants.
“Because of his background, he looked at the (head coaching) position differently,” said VMI coach Danny Rocco, who had McCorkle on his staffs at Delaware, Richmond and Liberty. “As an assistant coach, he was always asking the questions the head coach needed to be able to answer. He thought differently. It’s not all that common to have assistants asking those questions. Most assistants are comfortable not stepping on toes or looking at the big picture. With his background and upbringing, he was and is wired in a way where he does understand the big picture.
“He was a real asset at all three stops. He was an asset in being able to see things from a big-picture perspective and making decisions based on what is best for the program moving forward, and not just from the perspective of, ‘I’m the offensive line coach, and this is what I think we should do.’”
Those big-picture thoughts helped McCorkle build a resume that includes a Liberty offense that led the FCS in scoring in 2009 at 36.36 points per game, a 2017 Delaware team that won seven games – the most in four years for a proud Blue Hens program – and a boatload of all-conference athletes.
At Belhaven, McCorkle coached 47 all-conference athletes, 10 all-region selections and a 2021 AFCA All-American in defensive lineman Carlton Brown. This season, Belhaven running back Kolbe Blunt was named a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, awarded to Division III’s most outstanding player.
A 2000 LSU graduate with a degree in education, McCorkle’s journey brings him full circle to Louisiana where he began his coaching career as a student assistant with the Tigers in 1999. That fall followed a four-year career as a long snapper at LSU where McCorkle was part of three bowl teams, including one that broke a seven-year bowl drought for the Tigers and perhaps foreshadowed what was to come in his coaching career.
“(Coming back to Louisiana) played a huge part in it,” McCorkle said. “I’ve wanted to be a Division I head coach in Louisiana for 30 years now. I came here in August 1995 and fell in love with the people, the culture and the passion that is the state of Louisiana. A big part of that culture is college football. We’re in a great high school football state that has great areas to pull talent from. One thing I know about the people of Louisiana is you always know where you stand with them. I want to give the people of Natchitoches what they want, earn their trust and build something special for them.”