By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State has awarded head baseball coach John Cohen with a three-year contract extension.
The new deal, which was announced Thursday, is scheduled to keep the Bulldogs third-year coach in Starkville through the 2015 season. Cohen, 44, has an overall record 86-87 in three years at MSU but is coming off a 2011 season where the Bulldogs made it back to the Southeastern Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament play for the first time since 2007.
“Everybody involved has sacrificed so much to get where we are, I have no trouble saying I don't want to be anywhere else but Starkville, Mississippi and Mississippi State University,” Cohen said. “I said it 20 plus years ago and still applies today."
In Cohen’s third season at the helm, Mississippi State ended with a 38-25 record in 2011 and swept its way to the championship of the NCAA Atlanta Regional while being eight outs away against Florida in the Gainesville Super Regional of achieving the program’s ninth trip to the NCAA College World Series in Omaha.
“I’ve known John since we were both students here and he is the epitome of what a head coach at Mississippi State should be,” Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “We’re on the front end of something special being built here with our baseball program.”
Cohen, who had just one year left on his old deal, will now receive a new four-year contract including an increase in base salary from $250,000 to $262,500. This salary figure does not include the salary supplement Cohen will continue to receive from the Bulldog Foundation.
Current state law does not allow for Mississippi state employees to have contracts longer than four years.
Stricklin said one of the reasons for this new contract was “absolutely” in order to avoid having Cohen serve the 2013 season in a lame duck situation with questions about his future as head coach at his alma mater.
"John and his staff have done a tremendous job of leading our baseball program back to national prominence by recruiting top talent and instilling toughness," Stricklin said. "I look forward to John being our head coach for many years to come."
After being picked in an SEC preseason coaches’ poll to finish last in the Western Division of the league, MSU finished ranked nationally in three final polls (No. 15 in USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches and Collegiate Baseball along with 17th in Baseball America rankings).
“It's time for us to move forward as a program," Cohen said. “Once we get to the top of the league, we can start competing for national championships. I think we're close to being there right now.”
Off the field, a civil law suit against Mississippi State and Cohen has been filed in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court by former State left-handed pitcher Forrest Moore. The complaint, filed on May 11, says Cohen is responsible for the damage to the pitching arm of Moore along with the violation of NCAA rules in terms of practice hours.
Cohen or Stricklin both declined comment on the pending litigation.
In separate responses to the same civil suit, the legal representation of Cohen and MSU have both filed motions in court for the case to be dismissed.