It’s official, Jeff Mitchell is the new director of athletics.
University officials made the formal announcement today in a press conference, Geoffrey S. Mearns, Ball State president, announced Mitchell was chosen last week.
“After conducting a thorough national search, what impressed me about Jeff, in addition to his extensive professional executive experience in intercollegiate athletics, is his character,” Mearns said. “I am confident that Jeff will help our university extend a legacy of excellence in Ball State athletics — a tradition that instills pride and passion among our students, our graduates and our fans.”
Prior to joining Ball State, Mitchell was the former deputy director of athletics at Southern Mississippi. During the 2018-19 academic year, he served as interim director of athletics there. During that time, he assisted in the development of $7.5 million in facility upgrades at the university.
As Ball State’s director of athletics, Mitchell will oversee athletic programs that compete in the Mid-American Conference.
“I am grateful to President Mearns and the leadership at Ball State University for affording me this exciting opportunity,” Mitchell said. “Ball State’s reputation as a world-class institution devoted to immerse learning and a comprehensive student success is through its athletic department. I am impressed by the outstanding coaches, staff and student-athletes who are consistently competing for conference championships and qualifying for NCAA tournaments, while setting records both in competition and in the classroom. I look forward to building upon this tradition of excellence and also contributing to the vitality of the communities we serve.”
Mitchell, a college baseball player at Millsaps College, also served as senior associate athletic director for external operations at the University of Santa Clara for 12 years where he spent time as the interim athletic director. Mitchell actually spent time as interim athletic director at Southern Mississippi as well.
“People say that your life changes overnight when you take over as being an athletic director and that's true that's happened to me now three times,” Mitchell said. “Twice as the interim and now, here at Ball State, I would say that the level of detail and the number of decisions that come across your desk, really you can't count with it. So I believe that [with] the opportunity to serve here at Ball State, I am prepared. Much more so than perhaps I would have been had I not had those opportunities at similar institutions.”
He has faced tough situations in his time as interim athletic director at Southern Mississippi, making the decision against entertaining the idea of hiring former Baylor University head coach Art Briles and being around the athletic department when Brett Favre’s situation came to light.
“Well, I think it's just it sharpens you,” Mitchell said. “And really, for me, it comes down to values and making decisions that are in the best interest of an institution, not necessarily the Department of Athletics or one particular sports program. So I've been very confident in the decisions that I made previously and that will continue to lead me well as we go forward here.”
While Mearns thanked interim athletic director Ken Bothof for his dedication during the transition, Bothof will stay with Ball State for a little while longer to continue solidifying the transition.
“It's gonna be a baton pass between him and me and I'm excited to learn from him about what he's experienced here,” Mitchell said. “I intend to call for athletic director Beth Goetz and learn from her as well.”
This story has been updated to include more information from Mitchell's introductory press conference.