STARKVILLE, Miss. - John Cohen has been named Mississippi State University's 17th director of athletics, MSU President Mark E. Keenum announced Friday.
The current MSU head baseball coach and two-time Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year replaces Scott Stricklin, who was named athletic director at the University of Florida in September.
"I love Mississippi State University," Cohen said. "As a student, later as a coach, and now with this fantastic opportunity to lead MSU's athletics program, this was always where I wanted to be. I am profoundly grateful for the chance to lead the totality of MSU athletics as I have tried to lead MSU's baseball program – in daily and dogged pursuit of championships at the highest level."
Cohen, 50, has spent over two decades coaching college baseball and has been the head baseball coach at MSU since 2009. In July, he was given the title of Associate Athletic Director, broadening his role in the MSU Athletic Department. Cohen's promotion to athletic director comes after a national search by the university.
Cohen will take over an athletic department that has recently achieved new heights in athletic, academic, facility and fundraising accomplishments. As athletic director, Cohen is charged with providing leadership, management and administration for the university's athletic programs. He will report to the university president.
"This is a great day for us and I can't tell you how much your support means to us." -Cohen#HailState— HailState (@HailState) November 4, 2016
"We conducted an exhaustive national search and in that process interviewed some of the nation's very top athletic department administrators," Keenum said. "But after reviewing those outstanding candidates, it became clear to me that John Cohen's undeniable record of aggressively pursuing championships both as an MSU player and head coach positioned him best to continue the dynamic legacy of growth and accomplishment that MSU athletics has enjoyed in recent years. John understands that trajectory and has been an integral part of it – and he can move the Bulldog family forward united."
A Tuscaloosa, Alabama native and MSU alumnus, Cohen has been a head coach in the SEC for 12 years. His teams have been successful both on the field and in the classroom. At MSU, he has led the Bulldogs to a College World Series finals appearance, an SEC regular season championship and an SEC Tournament championship. Since 2009, MSU baseball has had 133 players selected to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, including three straight SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year winners from 2013-15.
"I'm fortunate to know our MSU coaches as friends and colleagues, and to know many of our athletes in all sports," Cohen said. "While baseball has been a huge part of my life, my passion for seeing MSU athletics thrive and win extends to all sports. As associate director of athletics, I've been a significant part of planning the future of MSU Athletics and I believe I can hit the ground running in advancing that agenda. I'm grateful to Dr. Keenum and the Bulldog stakeholders who advised him for allowing me to embrace these new and critical responsibilities."
As a baseball player at MSU, Cohen was instramental on the Bulldogs' 1989 SEC championship team and 1990 College World Series team. He graduated from MSU with a degree in English in 1990 and received a master's degree in sports management from the University of Missouri in 1994. After a six-year stint with Missouri as a graduate assistant and assistant coach, Cohen was the head coach at Northwestern State University from 1998-2001. Cohen spent two seasons as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Florida before becoming the head coach at the University of Kentucky in 2004, a position he held for four seasons before returning to his alma mater.
While winning 284 games as a head coach at MSU, Cohen has demonstrated the ability to develop players and coaches. During his tenure, 135 MSU baseball players have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Two of his assistant coaches at MSU have gone on to head coaching positions at SEC programs.
Cohen has also worked closely with athletic department personnel to promote all facets of the baseball program and raise money for a new state-of-the-art stadium. Eight of the university's top 10 all-time marks in baseball season ticket sales have come during Cohen's tenure, including a school record of 5,874 in 2014. He has been a staunch supporter of MSU's men's and women's athletic programs and has been a valuable resource for the entire athletic department during his time at MSU, earning him the associate athletic director title in July. Now slated to become athletic director, Cohen said he is excited for the opportunity to oversee the continued success of all of MSU's athletic programs.
Cohen and his wife, Nelle, are active members of the Starkville community. The couple has two daughters, Jordan Baker and Avery Lawson.
Greg Sankey, Southeastern Conference Commissioner
"Congratulations to Mississippi State University and President Keenum on their selection of John Cohen as the Bulldogs' next athletics director. I have worked with John for many years dating back to our shared experiences in the Southland Conference and I look forward to working with him in his new role. John is a proven leader, an innovative thinker and relationship-builder with unique skills and experiences that will make him a successful athletics director. His abilities in leading young people will serve him well in creating a positive environment for student-athletes at Mississippi State."
Scott Stricklin, former MSU Athletic Director/current University of Florida Athletic Director
"John is one of the brightest and most creative individuals I've ever been around. His integrity, along with his ability to anticipate challenges and identify solutions, will serve Mississippi State well. Bulldog student-athletes, coaches and staff will have a passionate advocate in John, and I look forward to seeing MSU Athletics thrive under his leadership."