Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen is in talks to become the next AD at Auburn, sources told ESPN. A deal has yet to be finalized but could happen in the near future.
Cohen is in his seventh year as the athletic director at Mississippi State, and his move would be a rare in-conference change for an athletic director. He would replace Allen Greene, who negotiated a departure from Auburn in August as his contract was set to expire in the upcoming months.
Auburn’s potential hire of an athletic director from within the SEC is a distinct move for a school where athletic leaders have often competed with board members and boosters for power. Cohen is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and was Mississippi State’s baseball coach from 2009 to 2016.
Cohen has a lot of familiarity with the SEC in his career, as he spent time as an assistant coach at Florida (2002-03) and as the head coach at Kentucky (2004-08). He took over at Mississippi State as the athletic director from Scott Stricklin, who left Starkville for Florida in 2016.
In July, Cohen signed a four-year extension — the maximum length allowed under Mississippi state law — and received a salary increase to $1.1 million from $950,000. His contract has a $250,000 buyout.
Cohen’s first major task will be to address the future of Bryan Harsin, the embattled Tigers football coach who is widely expected to be fired this year. Harsin’s job was put in flux in February amid a university inquiry that followed an exodus of players and assistant coaches.
That episode epitomized the instability that can occur at Auburn, as the inquiry doubled as a vote of no-confidence in Harsin, and the program’s recruiting has toiled since. Auburn has also struggled on the field, as Harsin has an overall losing record in his two seasons, entering Saturday’s game against Arkansas with a 9-11 record.