Marchant Passes by Bill Blackwell
Up in Cleveland, MS this week they will bury Bill Marchant. Bill of course is the former Head Baseball Coach of the Statesman and his story is legend in our state.
Bill Marchant was the son of a man in the oil business, he was born in California but raised mostly in Texas and Mississippi. He loved baseball from an early age and despite not possessing imposing size, he was good enough to catch the eye of Boo Ferriss, the Hall of Fame Coach of the Delta State University team. Delta State did not offer scholarships for baseball back in the late sixties but the program had a great reputation and a competitive record on the playing field. Marchant was a pitcher on teams from 1965 through 1969. The 1968 team made the trip to the Division II College World Series.
Bill wanted to stay in the game following graduation and was hired as the assistant baseball coach at Meridian High School and made Head Coach in his second year at the school. During his tenure at Meridian High, they won two state championships. He moved from there to schools in Texarkana and Lufkin Texas and then to Hinds Community College. In 1989, when Coach Ferriss retired, Delta State turned to their former player and brought in Bill Marchant.
Marchant was a tough disciplinarian as a coach but his teams always responded and performed. He had strict rules about attending classes and during his time as head coach he took great pride in the graduation rate of his players.
On Easter Sunday of 1993, Bill’s life changed forever! He was driving a Jeep behind a levy near the river when he lost control of the vehicle and flipped it several times in a cotton field. His wife was with him but had fastened her seat belt, Bill had not. He broke his back and was paralyzed from the waist down. Through 10 days in the hospital and months of rehab Bill was determined to return to his team.
“I didn’t look at it as me being a coach in a wheelchair” said Marchant “I just looked at it as me being a baseball coach and I happened to be in a wheelchair.”
He spent three years coaching his team from either his golf cart or that chair and his teams had great success. In 1994 the Statesmen won the Gulf South Conference Championship and finished 3rd in the DII College World Series. Two years later they again won the Conference and returned to the DII College World Series going 53-8
The wear and tear to both Bill and his wife began showing and following that 1996 season he retired as the Head Coach but stayed on at the school as a teacher and he continued to teach life lessons about overcoming adversity in life. His record at DSU was 283 – 127 which would be impressive for anyone but was an even greater achievement for someone battling the odds he faced.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife Cheryl and his passing will leave a void at the school. For 27 years Bill Marchant was a major part of the school he loved and his story will forever be a part of the Statesman’s legacy.