On Nov. 4, 2016, John Cohen became Mississippi State’s athletic director after Scott Stricklin left for Florida.
Almost exactly six years later, Cohen will follow in Stricklin’s footsteps.
Cohen became the latest Mississippi State AD to leave for another Southeastern Conference program, resigning Monday to accept the athletic director job at Auburn.
Cohen’s departure was confirmed Monday morning by MSU, which now begins the search for a permanent athletic director.
Auburn announced Cohen’s hiring Monday evening.
“I’m extremely grateful to President (Chris) Roberts for the opportunity to be the next director of athletics at Auburn University,” Cohen said in a news release. “Auburn is an incredibly special place as is demonstrated by the hall of fame coaches and athletes that have been a part of its storied history. I understand the traditions and values at Auburn and look forward to continuing those traditions. I’m humbled and honored to be joining the Auburn family.”
Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Bracky Brett was named the Bulldogs’ interim AD.
Brett has worked for Mississippi State since January 2002.
“Bracky is well known and highly respected in the Southeastern Conference and across the NCAA and I know he will maintain stability and focus as we move forward with a search for a new athletics director,” MSU president Mark Keenum said in a statement.
Keenum thanked Cohen and his wife Nelle for their time at Mississippi State and said MSU is a “victim of our own success” when it comes to MSU athletics directors leaving for other SEC positions.
“Together as the Bulldog family, we will move purposefully to find a new leader who can both embrace and build on that culture of success,” Keenum said.
Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated and Pete Thamel of ESPN both reported Saturday morning that Auburn was targeting Cohen for the job.
Cohen served as Mississippi State’s head baseball coach from 2009 to 2016, leading the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the 2013 Men’s College World Series.
He went 284-203-1 across his eight seasons in charge.
As athletic director, Cohen hired baseball coach Chris Lemonis from Indiana. Lemonis led the Bulldogs to the 2021 CWS championship, the first team national championship in school history.
Cohen was in charge of hiring football coach Mike Leach in early 2020. In 2022, he hired both men’s basketball coach Chris Jans and women’s basketball coach Sam Purcell.
Cohen, who has made 14 coaching hires during his MSU tenure, will leave Starkville before Jans and Purcell begin their first seasons.
Mississippi State recently completed renovations to Davis Wade Stadium, including new video boards and ribbon boards as well as the Balconies in the upper deck.
MSU is currently renovating Humphrey Coliseum and constructing a new softball team facility at Nusz Park.
Cohen now heads an Auburn program previously led by interim athletic director Rich McGlynn, who will serve as Cohen’s deputy AD. Allen Greene stepped down as the Tigers’ AD in August.
“John has a wealth of experience in college athletics, particularly in the Southeastern Conference and his resume and references are impeccable,” Auburn president Dr. Chris Roberts said. “His leadership and success as a head coach and an athletic director speak for themselves. John will embrace Auburn and be a tremendous leader for our athletics program as we move forward.”
Auburn fired embattled football coach Bryan Harsin shortly before noon Monday. Harsin was in his second season with the Tigers.
According to Dellenger, Cohen will receive a five-year contract worth $1.5 million annually from Auburn.
Cohen’s salary at Mississippi State was $1.1 million annually, per Thamel. He received a four-year extension, the maximum allowable by state law, in July.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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