John Cohen resigns at Mississippi State, set to become Auburn athletics director
Auburn has its next athletics director in place.
John Cohen has resigned from his role as Mississippi State's AD and will be taking the position at Auburn, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Clarion Ledger on Monday morning and MSU made it official later in the day.
Cohen will become the 16th AD in Auburn history. MSU compliance director Bracky Brett will be MSU's interim AD.
Auburn announced the firing of football coach Bryan Harsin on heels of reports that Cohen is set to become the school's new athletics director. Auburn had not made an announcement of a new athletics director hire as of Monday afternoon.
[Bryan Harsin fired: Here are 13 candidates for Auburn football's next coach, from Lane Kiffin to Deion Sanders ]
Auburn has been without a permanent athletics director since August after Allen Greene’s resignation. Reports surfaced this weekend, just as Auburn football kicked off against Arkansas, that the Tigers were nearing a deal with Cohen.
Mississippi State football was off last week. MSU (5-3, 2-3 SEC) returns to the field Saturday (6:30 p.m., ESPN2) to play host to Auburn (3-5, 1-4).
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“We thank John and Nelle (Cohen) for their long and dedicated service to MSU," MSU president Mark Keenum said in a statement. "In many ways, MSU is a victim of our own success in that several former MSU athletics directors have transitioned into similar roles at peer institutions in the Southeastern Conference. That fact speaks to the growing culture of success among our student-athletes and the commitment of our university, our alumni and friends and our fans to competing at the highest levels of collegiate athletics and doing so in the right way. 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.”
Cohen has been MSU’s AD since 2016, when he transitioned into the role from serving as the baseball coach. He played baseball at Mississippi State in the late 1980s before pursuing a coaching career.
Cohen oversaw a crucial period in MSU athletics. He hired Chris Lemonis as baseball coach in 2019, which led to the university’s first national title in a team sport in 2021.
While Cohen wasn’t the one who hired Vic Schaefer as women’s basketball coach, it was in his tenure as AD that the program saw three Elite Eight runs, including two national title appearances.
Cohen also hired Mike Leach as football coach in 2020. Most recently, he hired Chris Jans (men’s basketball) and Sam Purcell (women’s basketball) to take over the programs amidst renovations to Humphrey Coliseum in hopes of rejuvenating the brand of basketball in Starkville.
However, not all of Cohen’s moves are appreciated at MSU. His hiring of Nikki McCray-Penson after Schaefer’s departure led to a drop in the program. After Dan Mullen left for Florida in 2017, Cohen hired Joe Moorhead, whose tenure as football coach lasted two seasons.
Cohen is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He played baseball at Birmingham–Southern in 1986 before coming to Mississippi State
Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3.