September 21, 2018 10:42:42 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- After nearly two decades, Steve Dudley's time in the Mississippi State track and field program has come to an end.
MSU announced Dudley's resignation Thursday. He was set to enter his 18th season at his alma mater, his eighth as its head coach, and had built the program to a consistent national presence, including top 10 outdoor finishes in 2015, 2016 and again last season.
He leaves a team with a reigning national champion, Anderson Peters (javelin).
"I have decided to resign for personal reasons," Dudley said in MSU's statement. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Mississippi State. It's been a great run, and I am proud of what we are able to accomplish as a program. It's been a privilege to coach so many outstanding student-athletes who not only achieved success on the track but in the classroom and life. I wish the program nothing but the best moving forward."
MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen told The Dispatch he has faith in the, "all-star," coaching staff Dudley leaves behind, led by new interim coach Chris Woods, to take the team through its spring season, adding he will not hire a coach until after that spring season is completed. Woods will be aided by Houston Franks, Steve Silvey, April Thomas and Steve Thomas.
"All of these coaches are highly regarded in their fields," Cohen told The Dispatch. "They're really excited about indoor and outdoor (seasons) because they feel like they have a lot of talent here."
Cohen said in the statement announcing Dudley's resignation, "Chris has head coaching experience, and he's done a tremendous job as an assistant coach on our staff the past five years."
Woods is a MSU alum, graduating in 2008, and got that head coaching experience at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Caroline, before returning to be MSU's sprinters and relays coach. Woods was a two-time All-American and four-time All-Southeastern Conference honoree in his time as a Bulldog.
"Coach Dudley has meant a lot to me and our program," Woods said in a statement MSU provided to The Dispatch. "He coached me, and it has been a privilege to coach beside him for the last five years. We want to continue our upward trajectory as a program. As I stressed to the team today, we have to create a championship mentality in everything we do. Mississippi State track and field is a proud program with unlimited potential. We have a talented group of student-athletes returning, and we are excited about what this team can accomplish."
Cohen is now thrust into a situation similar to that of the last baseball season, in which a team goes through its season with an interim coach. In that case, he was open about both evaluating the coach he has on campus and others around the nation, and he plans on taking on this search with the same approach.
"Nothing is off the table," Cohen said. "When you're looking for the best fit for Mississippi State, nothing can be off the table. We're going to gather information from everywhere we can get it."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson