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.
Mr. Cohen will take over an athletic department that has recently achieved new heights in athletic, academic, facility and fundraising accomplishments. As athletic director, he is charged with providing leadership, management and administration for the university’s athletic programs.
Mr. Cohen 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. His promotion to athletic director comes after a national search by the university.
“We conducted an exhaustive national search and in that process interviewed some of the nation’s very top athletic department administrators,” said Mark E. Keenum, president of MSU. “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.”
“I love Mississippi State University,” Mr. 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.”
Mississippi State University’s 16 athletic teams are known as the Bulldogs, which was adopted in 1961. They compete in Division I of the NCAA and the western division of the 14-member Southeastern Conference (SEC). The Bulldogs have garnered a total of 28 conference championships (14 SEC).
Parker Executive Search conducts executive searches for corporations, colleges & universities, and collegiate athletics. Its sports practice represents clients conducting searches for positions ranging from president/CEO, EVP/SVP/general manager, and executive director to conference commissioner, athletic director, head coach, and assistant coach, among others.
The firm recently recruited David Benedict as athletic director at the Universtiy of Connecticut. It also placed Mark Jackson as director of athletics at Villanova University as well as Jennifer Cohen as the new AD of the University of Washington (UW). A UW spokesperson said the school paid the search firm $105,000 for its role in generating leading candidates and seeing the search process through to completion.
Universities Turning to Recruiters to Find AD Talent
Mississippi State is just one of an expanding number of schools turning to executive search firms to find athletics directors. Here’s a sampling of recent assignments from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:
- Turnkey Search placed Todd Stansbury as athletic director for Georgia Tech. The search was led by senior executive director Gene DeFilippo, a former athletic director at Boston College, Villanova and University of Kentucky, along with Len Perna, founder, president and chief executive officer of Turnkey Search. Turnkey Search also recruited Mark Coyle as director of athletics at the University of Minnesota. The University paid Turnkey Search $150,000 plus expenses to recruit and vet candidates for the position.
- DHR International recruited an insider, Jeffrey Schulman, as athletic director at the University of Vermont (UVM). The firm was said to have been paid $75,000 to look for, vet and present candidates to UVM, along with another $9,000 for indirect costs and reimbursements of over $30,000 for advertising placements and traveling. Mr. Schulman is currently in his 12th year as senior associate athletic director at UVM.
- Collegiate Sports Associates (CSA) recruited Jim Sterk as athletic director for University of Missouri. According to sources, Missouri paid the recruiting firm $75,500 plus expenses to handle the assignment. Missouri had previously used Korn Ferry in the search that produced Mack Rhoades, Mr. Sterk’s predecessor. Korn Ferry charged the university $206,000 for the search, which included a $75,000 retainer.
- Brill Neumann Associates placed pro football hall of fame wide receiver and USC alumnus Lynn Swann as athletic director of the University of Southern California (USC). Pat Haden retired from the post, ending his guidance of the Trojans through a tumultuous period in the school’s history.
- Korn Ferry, the nation’s largest search firm, placed Josh Whitman as athletics director for the University of Illinois. The University is said to have paid Korn Ferry $140,000 for its work on the search.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media