Missouri Southern State head coach Denver Johnson has stepped down, he announced Tuesday.

“After long and thoughtful reflection, I have chosen at this time to resign out of consideration of the program,” Johnson said. “I believe that affording the University the opportunity to begin a search immediately and name a new coach early in the upcoming recruiting cycle is paramount.”

“There is a very capable staff in place to shepherd the program through the remainder of the season. They are fine men and good coaches and they will provide the needed mentorship and guidance through this transition.”

Formerly the head coach at Illinois State and Murray State, Johnson was in his fourth season at Missouri Southern State. Missouri Southern, a Division II school in Joplin, Mo., went 3-30 in his first three seasons, and stands at 0-3 this season.

Defensive coordinator Joe Bettasso has been named interim head coach, and the school will conduct a “national search” to find Johnson’s replacement.

“I want to take this time to let Coach Johnson know how grateful I am for giving me the opportunity to come back home to my alma mater,” Bettasso said. “Over my short time with him, I grew to respect him as a coach and more importantly for the type of person he is. I will always consider him a close friend. I would like to thank Dr. Marble and Jared Bruggeman for the opportunity to lead this program for the remainder of the season.”

Missouri Southern State is the second college program to announce a coaching change to date this year, and the first in Division III. Division III Albion College announced on Sept. 4 that head coach Craig Rundle will retire at season’s end.

Missouri Southern State faces No. 18 Fort Hays State on Saturday.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.