Mississippi State announced on Monday that its most tenured coach within the athletic department has decided to retire at the end of the season, but will not be leaving the school.
Sharon Fanning-Otis plans to step down as head coach of the women’s basketball team at the end of the season to take on a role within the Bulldog Club.
In a statement released by MSU, Fanning-Otis thanked the university for its support for the past 17 years she has been the coach and looks forward to assuming her new responsibilities.
Fanning-Otis discussed her decision in more detail later in the day.
"It's an emotional time, but it's been a blessing," Fanning-Otis said as her voice cracked with that emotion. "(Former Bulldog athletic director) Larry (Templeton) and I talked about it for several years now. When an opportunity presents itself, you feel like it's the right thing for everybody involved. You go ahead, do it and that's what we needed to do.
"It's a great new direction and something I anticipated by my mid 50s, but I was just blessed to be a part of this program in one capacity and double-blessed to be a part in another capacity."
During her time as a basketball coach, Fanning-Otis has been involved in the community.
She anticipates doing more of the same with the Bulldog Club.
"Things have changed so much during the years, but a lot of things I enjoyed doing in coaching has been the community things and enjoy talking to groups so it will be an extension of that," Fanning-Otis said.
"To be able to fund raise and help the other sports, I have a true interest in a lot of sports and have been involved with them through the years so now I have the opportunity to do that. I anticipate new challenges and new goals to be set. It will be fun, but it will be a change after doing the same thing for 37 years."
Over those years (17 with Mississippi State), Fanning-Otis has produced a record of 608-457 as a head coach. During her career, she has been a head coach at UT-Chattanooga, Kentucky and MSU.
She stands as the all-time winningest coach in MSU women’s history with 281 victories and is just the 14th women’s coach to earn over 600 career wins.
While with the Lady Bulldogs, Fanning-Otis has directed them to 11 postseason appearances, including six NCAA Tournament berths and the school's only women's basketball Sweet 16 appearance. Ten of her players earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference recognition and two players were picked Kodak All-American a collective five times.
Fanning-Otis, who was named the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year in 2000 after leading her team to the championship game of the SEC Tournament, has been pleased to be a part of a program that has grown.
"Programs go through certain phases and I just happened to come in the years that I did," Fanning-Otis said. "I think you saw the program continue to grow and make progress. I've been blessed that everyone in administration has been so supportive."
MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin appreciates the devotion and commitment Fanning-Otis has provided the women's program.
Stricklin believes the qualities that Fanning-Otis possesses will serve her well in the new area of work she enters.
"She has a great heart for people, and her work ethic and dedication to Mississippi State has taken our women's basketball program to successes never attained prior to her arrival," Stricklin said in a statement. "The timing of Sharon's announcement gives us the opportunity to begin looking for our next women's basketball coach. As always, we'll identify a hard-working, intelligent coach who can move this program forward."
The Lady Bulldogs are back in action Thursday when they take on Florida in Gainesville, Fla. On Sunday, Fanning-Otis will coach her final home game when Kentucky comes calling in Humphrey Coliseum.
(Editor's Note: Starkville Daily News sports editor Danny P. Smith contributed to this story.)