COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University athletics has added a wealth of knowledge and experience with the hiring of Derek Cowherd to serve as the new Student Athlete Support Services Office (SASSO) executive director and senior associate athletic director, the university announced on Wednesday.
Cowherd joins the Buckeyes after a successful stint at the University of Mississippi where he served as the senior associate athletics director for student-athlete development. During his six years in Oxford, Cowherd helped to develop a variety of special programs and projects related to the academic success of student-athletes, pushing the graduation success rate to 84 percent, the highest in school history.
“My family and I are excited to join the Buckeye staff and look forward to growing under two transformational leaders, Mr. Gene Smith and Dr. Beth Hume,” Cowherd said. “I am humbled by the outpouring of support from alums and pleased to continue my passion of developing, motivating, inspiring and graduating student-athletes. The standard that Dr. David Graham has set at one of the best institutions in the nation is unparalleled and I cannot help but be excited about the opportunity to lead such a talented SASSO team.”
At Ole Miss Cowherd supervised 20 full-time staff members and oversaw more than 125 tutors, mentors and academic strategists. He also served as the chair of the diversity committee and co-chair of the student-athlete diversity committee.
“He is an outstanding leader that is recognized nationally for his innovative programs and services for academic success for student-athletes,” Dr. Graham said. “He will make a great Buckeye!”
Before heading to Mississippi, Cowherd was the director of academic affairs at LSU, a position he took over in 2011 after joining LSU’s Academic Center for Student-Athletes in 2007. His primary role at LSU was academic oversight of the Tiger football team while supervising seven full-time advisors and other staff spread out amongst the other sports.
Cowherd started his career at his alma mater, the University of Louisville. First as a graduate assistant, and then as an academic counselor for academics in athletics after the completion of his master’s degree, Cowherd oversaw the academic status of the women’s tennis, men’s soccer and women’s basketball teams. He earned a promotion to assistant director of academics for athletics in 2007.
The Greenburg, Kentucky native earned his bachelor’s degree from Louisville in 1998, and completed his master’s in 2003. He started the pursuit of a doctorate in educational leadership and higher learning with a specialization in higher education administration while at LSU and continued that pursuit at Ole Miss.
Cowherd and his wife, Misty, are the parents of a son and daughter, Jackson and Eden.