The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Q/A with John Cohen


John Cohen

What should incoming freshman expect out of MSU athletics?
We are really proud of our athletic department, not only for what happens on the field, but off the field. Our entire athletic department, our student body within the athletic department had over a 3.0 cumulative grade point average last semester. Our kids do a ton of work in the community, and we are so proud of what they off the field, but on the field as well. You know we play in the best league in America, the Southeastern Conference, and we feel like in basketball, baseball and football, we have among the very best atmospheres in college athletics, and our student body is a huge part of that.

The interesting thing about MSU is that women’s basketball has risen to prominence where it is as popular as the men’s team, if not more.  Can you talk about the atmosphere they have and the general exposure they have brought the school?

Once again I am going to start with academics. Our women’s basketball team had a 3.4 team GPA last semester. Our women’s basketball team is so involved in our community, and the University community, and that Starkville community. We have an incredible atmosphere at their games. In Humphrey Coliseum alone last year, we went 37-2 at home. We won more home games, men’s and women’s combined, than any other division-one basketball programs. There are a lot really neat things that happen in Humphrey Coliseum. I believe the men’s team has really turned the corner. They have really played well in the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) last year. I really believe they are an NCAA team next year.

Not just the men’s team but a lot of sports, like soccer, tennis among others, across MSU’s campus are doing well. Can you talk about the overall success top to bottom?

I think tennis is one of those sports that is so underrated at Mississippi State. I see more and more of our student body coming to those games. I mean, you are talking about world-class players at Mississippi State. Nuno Borgers was, in the fall, the best player in America in division-one tennis. He is also a 4.0 student. Our two tennis teams, they are really good. Our women in a one-week span beat the No. 2 team in the country, No. 14 in the country and No. 3 in the country in three straight matches. They are a ton of different ways, if you want to go see world-class athletes. It does not matter what venue you go to. Softball, Mia Davidson might end up being the best freshman in the Southeastern Conference this year. You have a top 25 tennis teams, you have a top 25 softball team. You have a football team that will probably start out ranked somewhere in the top 15 or 20 in the country. You have a men’s basketball team that I think is going to start out ranked in the top 25 in the country. You have a women’s basketball team coming off two national championship game appearances. You have a volleyball team under new leadership, Julie Darty, who is going to do a great job. Our soccer team had their best season in 16 years. I really think this is a great time to be a student at Mississippi State.

You mentioned the football team, that team is under new leadership in Joe Moorhead. What type of person is MSU’s new head coach?

First of all, Joe is a great person. He is an intellectual person, and he was considered the best assistant coach in college football. He is getting a lot of credit for the turn around at Penn State University. He has head coaching experience. We think he is going to do an incredible job with a surging football program. Of course, when you play in the SEC West, every weekend is an incredible environment and an incredible game. This league is just so much fun as a student to follow because everybody is good.

You talk about the environment and the rich tradition the university has, what are some of those traditions and environments that students can expect to see?

The cowbell is so important. It is in the fabric of who we are. If a freshman coming in reading this, we will have our first cowbell yell: it is important to know when to ring your cowbell. It is important to know when not to ring your cowbell, to make as much noise with your mouth as you can. It is important to understand you can’t go out and buy your own first cowbell. All these rules are passed down from generation to generation, and we absolutely embrace traditions because they are important to Mississippi State.
This will be the first freshman class that only sees the brand new baseball stadium, which is set for completion in time for next season. What should they expect?

This freshman class next year will experience the full deal. It is half done, it will be completely done then. We have accommodated our students in a really special area. The Left Field Lounge, the berm areas and we believe there will be really great opportunities for our students to have a good time at baseball, and that is a time-honored tradition as well.

When you talk to former players and people who leave. Their biggest takeaway from MSU is that it is a family atmosphere. Can you talk about what created this atmosphere where everyone feels welcome?

It is a family. A lot of people boast that moniker, they talk about the word family but I can tell it truly is from my experience. The first time I ever drove to McArthur dorm, which is now an administration building, and I was moving into the dorm, total strangers came up and said “how can we help you?” and that is the story of Mississippi State. Nobody is a stranger, nobody is an enemy. Everybody is working with you to become the best you can be.

Another cool thing about MSU is on the sideline of games, you see former players come back. Whether it be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott) or the starting pitcher for the Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman), they come back and watch these games.

It is because they are part of a really deep family. Dak Prescott had an incredible quote this weekend (Super Bulldog Weekend at the Spring Game). He said, ‘I had the same feeling now about Mississippi State as I did the day I first walked on campus.’ It is family, it is really hard to experience it, and that is one of the neat things about bring people all over this campus. The most common thing I hear, “I had no idea that this place was that special.” I take that as a real compliment, because this place is that special.

Athletics are a huge part of the student experience. What are some of the things the Athletic Department does to enhance that experience?

Our marketing department has so many different awards nationally because they want to make the experience of the student at Mississippi State the best it can be. We are just about to initiate a program for concessions for all our games. We are about to initiate new season ticket opportunities for students. We are about to initiate a lot of different opportunities for students to get more out of their experience than they ever have before.

Final question, you were a student here and played baseball. You also became the head baseball coach later before becoming athletic director. What would you tell incoming freshman John Cohen as he walks onto campus for the first time?

It is funny you mention this because I do a lot of speaking engagements on campus, and I always say the same thing. Even when I was a student at Mississippi State, the opportunities were much less than they are now, but I never took advantage of all the opportunities that this great campus has to offer. I mean my goodness, everything from rock climbing to yoga in the morning at the Sanderson Center, to sporting events, to clubs and service organizations, to going and listening to speaking engagements at Lee Hall. So many famous people are speaking on our campus who are delivering incredible messages. So many incredible courses that you can take. There are so many different ways to improve yourself. My advice to myself would be: take advantage of those opportunities, because there are so many of them on this campus.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Q/A with John Cohen