STARKVILLE — After eight years at Mississippi State, women’s basketball head coach Vic Schaefer is heading back to the Lonestar State.
Multiple sources close to the situation confirmed to The Dispatch that Schaefer — a Texas Native and former longtime assistant at Texas A&M — will be the next head coach at the University of Texas.
Texas officially announced the hiring late Sunday afternoon, though speculation spread when Athletic Director Chris Del Conte tweeted a photo with Schaefer and his family with the caption “Guess who’s coming to the Forty…” earlier in the day.
“I want to thank everyone at Mississippi State for eight wonderful years,” Schaefer said in a news release. “Thank you to the Bulldog Family for your loyalty and love of our program. We will always be grateful for our time in Starkville.”
In eight seasons at MSU, Schaefer took the program to two national title games and three Elite Eights while compiling a 221-62 record — giving him the best winning percentage of any coach in program history.
He also guided the Bulldogs to a last second upset of UConn in the 2017 Final Four to end the Huskies’ 111-game win streak.
MSU concluded the 2020 season 27-6 and reached the finals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament before losing to No. 1-ranked South Carolina for the second time this year.
“You know, you’re just really proud of what this team was able to accomplish,” Schaefer told the Dispatch in late March following the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. “And that’s why I hate it for them, because I really feel like they could have made a run and we could have gotten hot like we have in the last three or four years and made a big run in the tournament.”
Schaefer’s hiring at Texas comes just two days after Del Conte fired previous head coach Karen Aston. Aston had been the coach in Austin since 2012 — the same year Schaefer was hired at MSU — and compiled a 184-83 record over that span.
In that time, the Longhorns reached three Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight, though they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year.
A source with immediate knowledge of the situation told The Dispatch Sunday that Texas will cover Schaefer’s $1.25 million buyout.
According to the same source, Schaefer’s employment contract ran through the 2022-23 season after it was re-upped to four years after last season (Mississippi state law doesn’t allow contracts longer than four years). He was slated to make nearly $2 million annually over that span and was set to receive a $375,000 retention bonus if still employed as the head coach at MSU on June 1, 2021.
MSU Athletic Director John Cohen spoke with the team after Schaefer informed the Bulldogs he would no longer be the head coach — though it remains unclear whether they were told before word leaked onto social media.
“Earlier today, I met with our young women and informed them that a national search for our next head women’s basketball coach is underway,” Cohen said in a news release. “I shared with the team that we will be thoughtful and thorough during the process, and that I am confident we will find a great leader for this program. We are looking for a relentless recruiter, someone who understands our deep meaning of family, someone who understands the Mississippi State culture, and a hungry competitor with an elite work ethic. We want someone who knows the game inside and out and has an innovative skill set.”
Following the news of Schaefer’s departure, reactions from players poured in over social media.
Senior guard Jordan Danberry, junior center Sidney Cooks, sophomore forward/center Jessika Carter and freshman forward Rickea Jackson were among those who reacted via Twitter.
“I ain’t never seen nothing like this,” Danberry wrote.
“This team is my family,” Cooks added.
Jackson’s mother, Caryn, also released a statement for her daughter via Twitter, writing:
“This is a hurtful situation for all the players at Mississippi State University. As they are (heartbroken). Please everyone respect their space to mentally process all that has taken place. Rickea is processing this as she should. She loves MSU fans, her Coaches and more so her Teammates. So please people let the young ladies process things with their families in peace! Don’t take it personal but it is personal!”
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.