By JOEL COLEMAN
Conflicting accounts on the status of Mississippi State’s search to find an athletic director surfaced on Wednesday with the school strongly rebuking a report from The Clarion-Ledger.
The Clarion-Ledger, citing unnamed sources, reported on Wednesday morning that MSU will name baseball coach John Cohen its new athletic director next week. Mississippi State president Mark Keenum fired back with a statement firmly disputing the report.
“I announced on Sept. 26 that a nationwide search was underway to choose Mississippi State University’s next Director of Athletics,” Keenum’s statement read. “In that announcement, I outlined the process we would observe in which we would engage an executive search firm to help guide the effort and that we would seek substantive input from MSU stakeholders during the search. We are following that plan.
“The report (Wednesday) by The Clarion-Ledger’s Mike Bonner indicated that a decision has been made in that process was inaccurate. I’m extremely disappointed that a reputable newspaper and reporter would make such a report without seeking basic confirmation of the facts of the story being circulated. Doing so is irresponsible and in some ways may interfere with the process. It’s unfair to the candidates seeking the position who have not yet been interviewed.
“At present, no decisions have been made, no announcements prepared, and no press conferences scheduled. Neither I nor any of the university’s senior communications staff was asked to confirm or deny Mr. Bonner’s story prior to his publication of it. Perhaps that’s most disappointing of all.
“We’re not going to make this personnel decision in the media. We will follow our plan, we will conduct this search in the manner we previously outlined, and we will ultimately make the best decision for Mississippi State. This will be done in an expeditious timeline, but on our timeline.”
Cohen has been MSU’s baseball coach since 2009. His roots to MSU run deep, as he also played for the Bulldogs from 1988 to 1990. Cohen would fit the mold of past State athletic directors. Since Larry Templeton was named MSU’s athletic director in 1987, all subsequent hires have been made from within the program.
Greg Byrne took over for Templeton in 2008. Scott Stricklin followed Byrne in 2010.
Stricklin was hired as the new athletic director at Florida last month. Before leaving, Stricklin granted Cohen a new four-year contract as baseball coach that also included an additional title as associate athletic director. It remains to be seen if that was a sign of things to come.
MSU football coach Dan Mullen was asked about reports of Cohen’s promotion on the Southeastern Conference football teleconference on Wednesday and he, too, refuted the report.
“I think that’s completely false,” Mullen said. “The president’s office is still in the interview process. They’re going to get us a great candidate, but I don’t think there is any truth that anything has been decided upon.”