By JOEL COLEMAN
Mississippi State is in the market for a new pitching coach.
Butch Thompson, who has filled that role for the Bulldogs since 2009, was officially announced Thursday as the new head baseball coach at Auburn.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime to be the head baseball coach at Auburn University,” Thompson said in a release from Auburn. “It’s a cliché to say it’s being a part of something bigger than yourself, but I think it applies here.”
The last seven seasons, Thompson has been a part of MSU head coach John Cohen’s staff, serving as an associate head coach since 2012.
In a statement released by Mississippi State, Cohen expressed his pride in Thompson and said the Bulldogs are already beginning the search to fill the void he leaves behind.
“We are proud and happy for Butch Thompson, and there is no one more deserving of this opportunity,” Cohen said. “Our nationwide search for a new pitching coach begins immediately. We look forward to the new hire developing our talented group of arms and recruiting tirelessly as we continue our goal of winning championships at Mississippi State.”
Mississippi State pitcher Austin Sexton took to Twitter to express his feelings on Thompson’s departure.
“I want to just say that Coach Thompson is one of the greatest coaches I have ever had the privilege to play for,” Sexton posted. “Even more than that he is a better man. He truly cared about us as ball players and more importantly men. I’m honored and blessed to have been able to play and learn from him these past three years. I wouldn’t be the pitcher or man I am today if it wasn’t for him.”
Thompson is no stranger to Auburn or the state of Alabama. He previously spent three seasons as a pitching coach for the Tigers from 2006 through 2008.
Prior to that, Thompson had stints as a coach at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Birmingham-Southern and Jefferson State Community College.
Thompson has been a coach in the Southeastern Conference since joining the staff at Georgia prior to the 2002 season.
Auburn director of athletics Jay Jacobs said that Thompson was a unanimous choice by his search committee and that his new head coach’s previous ties to Auburn were an added bonus.
“That was not the criteria, but certainly with all the other attributes and experience that Butch brings to the job, his familiarity to Auburn was impressive, along with his experience in the Southeastern Conference,” Jacobs said. “He’s been at Georgia and Mississippi State as well. We believe this conference is unique, and it takes a unique person, and it was unquestionable that Butch possesses all those characteristics we think that a successful baseball coach in this league needs to have.”
Thompson is widely regarded as one of the top pitching minds in all of college baseball. He was named the 2014 Baseball America and American Baseball Coaches Association National Assistant Coach of the Year. He’s made seven trips to the College World Series. Nine of his pitchers have made it to the major leagues.
Thompson has also developed a reputation as an excellent recruiter, helping put together 10 nationally-ranked recruiting classes.
In his previous three-year stint at Auburn, all three of Thompson’s recruiting classes were ranked among the nation’s top 18, including a No. 5 national ranking in 2007.
Thompson plans to hit the ground running on the recruiting front now that he’s at Auburn, but says his first order of business will be to learn more about the players already on board with the Tigers.
“Priority one is to take care of our current players, and No. 2 would be recruiting,” Thompson said. “Being able to be in place at this point will give us time to see if everybody is on board, if they’re a match and still committed to Auburn baseball.”
Thompson replaces Sunny Golloway at Auburn. Golloway was fired last month in the midst of an internal investigation into his program.