How will John Cohen handle the search for Auburn's new head football coach?
Auburn's new athletic director went through two football searches at Mississippi State. But, as he made quite clear Tuesday, the Plains are completely different.
(Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
John Cohen was named Auburn’s athletic director less than 10 days ago.
And, during that brief time since his official resignation from his alma mater of Mississippi State, Cohen has been focused on a clear top priority in his new job — a football hire that will set the tone for his tenure as Auburn’s 16th AD in a big way.
“It obviously dominates my time, which it should,” Cohen said Tuesday. “The football head coaching position at Auburn University is a critical decision and we take it with the utmost seriousness. There will not be anything we don’t look at. Everything is on the table, every day.”
Cohen knows that there’s a lot riding on his first major move on the Plains. The first question he received at his press conference Tuesday was about the pressure of hiring a football coach. (The second question, rather humorously, was about if he had previously met any candidates in a hot tub.)
“You know, I’m not a big ‘pressure’ guy,” Cohen said. “I just see opportunity, and Auburn is the land of opportunity. I think we have a great opportunity here, and I think the future is really bright.”
In his formal introduction to Auburn, Cohen went into a lot of the reasons why he decided to leave a place where he spent a significant amount of time as an athletic director, baseball head coach and student athlete to take this very job.
Cohen talked about Auburn’s championship tradition. He talked about aligning with the leadership on campus and inheriting “one of the great collections of coaches that exists in this country.”
He talked about the elite recruiting footprint, the power of the Auburn brand and the history of star names that have come through the school.
(Cohen even included current athlete and Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee in that list, which included the likes of Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley. Lee being listed with those legends is, of course, well-deserved.)
He even turned the well-worn negative phrase of JABA — “Just Auburn Being Auburn” — into a positive.
For Cohen, Auburn is a better opportunity. He’s reportedly getting paid around $400,000 more per year here than he was at Mississippi State. He’s also now in charge of an athletic department that has won 22 national championships, while his alma mater just recently captured its first one. And Auburn was also said to be well ahead of Mississippi State in NIL, which Cohen says he wants to embrace on the Plains.
“We have to be aggressive,” Cohen said. “It’s the way of the world. We’re going to jump in with both feet. Certainly an incredible foundation has been laid at Auburn University and I’m very proud of that. It makes this position even more appealing. It really speaks to the passion for Auburn University to see what’s already been done in that space. I’m excited about jumping in there and locking shields with all of those people who are involved with the NIL process at Auburn.”
There’s also a better opportunity, specifically, inside the money-making machine of football.