Geoffrey S. Mearns, president of Ball State University, has selected Jeff Mitchell as the Cardinals’ new director of athletics.
Mr. Mitchell will join Ball State after serving as deputy director of athletics at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., since 2018.
Mr. Mitchell will be formally introduced at a program on Monday, Feb. 6, at the Ball State Alumni Center, 2800 W. Bethel Ave., Muncie, IN 47304. The event, which is open to the public and will be livestreamed at bsu.edu/live, will begin at 1:30 p.m.
“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—a values-based approach to leadership that embodies our enduring values,” President 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.”
As Ball State's director of athletics, Mr. Mitchell will oversee athletic programs competing in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and the NCAA. He will also continue to implement the imperatives set forth within “Onward,” the Ball State athletics department’s comprehensive strategic plan, as well as guide the department’s “Ball YOU” program, an easily accessible platform to empower student-athletes in their name, image, and likeness (NIL) exposure and opportunities.
“I am grateful to President Mearns and the leadership at Ball State University for affording me this exciting opportunity,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Ball State’s reputation as a world-class institution devoted to immersive learning and comprehensive student success is reinforced through its athletics 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.”
Mr. Mitchell has more than two decades of experience in higher education and athletics administration. At Southern Miss, he has managed the daily operations of the Golden Eagle athletics department and provided leadership for special projects, such as “#ToTheTop25,” the department’s strategic plan. He also negotiated the university’s long-term, multi-million-dollar multimedia partnership with LEARFIELD, and its long-term agreement with ticketing partner Paciolan, which is expected to generate $100 million in revenue over the term of the deal.
Mr. Mitchell served as the University of Southern Mississippi’s interim director of athletics during the 2018-19 academic year. He also assisted in the planning and development of $7.5 million in facility upgrades at Southern Miss, including a new 18,000-square-foot student-athlete academic center, a new synthetic turf baseball field and state-of-the-art LED lighting system, a new basketball court redesign and state-of-the-art LED lighting system, and enhancements to the baseball locker room, the M-Club lounge and kitchen, and the athletics administration building.
Dr. Charlene Alexander, chief strategy officer at Ball State, served as chair of the University’s screening committee for the search. She said Mr. Mitchell’s proven success with advancing organizational development and enhancing revenue generation, and his excellent track record of hiring diverse coaches and staff, made him an ideal candidate for the position.
“We are excited to welcome Jeff and his family to Muncie,” Dr. Alexander said. “Throughout the hiring process, Jeff displayed a genuine sense of passion and creativity that will be an asset to our athletics department—and to our University. Jeff’s emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and community engagement aligns with our University’s values and will serve him well in this role.”
Mr. Mitchell joined Southern Miss after a 12-year stint at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif., where he most recently served as the senior associate athletic director for external operations.
A collaborative campus leader, Mr. Mitchell has served in various leadership roles and committees at Santa Clara and at Southern Miss—where he also taught business classes as an adjunct professor. As an accomplished public address announcer for 20 years, Mr. Mitchell has announced Division I baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and volleyball in the SEC, PAC-12, C-USA, WCC, Division III football and basketball in the SCAC, and Division III NCAA Tournament basketball.
Mr. Mitchell is the co-author of a textbook entitled “Sport, Ethics and Leadership,” which was published in 2017. He earned his Bachelor of Arts (2001) and Master of Business Administration (2003) from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., where he was a four-year member of the varsity baseball team, a four-year member of the athletic department’s sports information staff, and assistant baseball coach. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 2005, where he also served as a graduate assistant in the external relations unit and primarily worked with the Ole Miss football and men’s basketball programs.
Mr. Mitchell and his wife, April, are parents to daughter, Harper Wynne (14), and son, Carson (9).
In addition to announcing Mr. Mitchell’s hiring, President Mearns thanked Ken Bothof for his service as interim director of athletics.