Leah Beasley knows the inner workings of the athletic departments at the University of Oklahoma and Mississippi State. She has worked closely with Zac Selmon, the newly named athletic director at State, for the last eight months at Oklahoma.
Beasley says Mississippi State has hit a grand slam in the hiring of Selmon, who, at age 37, becomes Mississippi State’s first Black athletic director and the first at any of Mississippi’s three largest universities.
“I am so proud for Mississippi State and for Zac,” Beasley said from Norman, Okla., Friday, shortly after Selmon’s introductory press conference. “State people are going to love him. He is a relationship-based guy, as genuine as they come. He is really good at having a plan and sticking to it but an be nimble and flexible when the occasion calls for it. He’s ready for this.”
Beasley worked in the Mississippi State athletic department for nearly a decade before taking a job as associate executive athletic director at Oklahoma last April. She worked closely with Selmon in areas of communication, NIL (name, image and likeness), facilities and crisis management.
“You should see our Sooner athletics executive team messaging site today.” Beasley said. “The thing is filled with Mississippi State gifs and memes. Everybody is so happy for Zac.”
Mississippi State president Mark E. Keenum seemed more than happy. “…I think my focus during the interview process was how seamlessly Zac’s values of family, faith and character align with those of Mississippi State University,” Keenum said in introducing Selmon.
“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and a professional journey that I’m ready to begin,” Selmon said. “I want to thank Dr. Keenum for his confidence in me. I’m grateful to my family for preparing me from an early age to work hard and trust in God. I have a deep and abiding respect for Mississippi State’s traditions and the role this university plays in taking care of what matters in this state and nation. My family and I are eager to join the Bulldog family.”
If the name Selmon sounds familiar to Mississippi Sports fans, it should.
Zac Selmon is a son of Dewey Selmon and nephew Lucius and Lee Roy Selmon (the famous football Selmon brothers of Eufaula, Oklahoma.) Keenum said Zac Selmon “grew up with powerful examples of winning at the highest levels and doing so with a deep commitment to sportsmanship and scholarship. Winning and winning the right way is in Zac Selmon’s DNA.”
Although his father and uncles are Oklahoma football deity, Zac Selmon played his college football at Wake Forest. At Wake, Selmon not only became a four-year starter for the Demon Deacons, but a dean’s list scholar graduating in 2007 with a degree in religion and international studies. He also holds a 2010 OU master’s degree in education with an emphasis in intercollegiate athletics administration.
Before Oklahoma, Zac Selmon also worked as an associate athletic director at North Carolina. Said Keenum, “I am convinced that in Zac Selmon we found an outstanding leader with a servant’s heart – a leader who has extensive experience at two Power Five universities and who understands and shares our relentless commitment to achieving and maintaining excellence.”
Zac Selmon has learned from two of the most respected athletic directors in the business, Joe Castiglione at Oklahoma and Bubba Cunningham at North Carolina.
Nevertheless, as with any hire, there will be skeptics. With Zac Selmon, many might question his having never worked in the SEC or as the CEO of an athletics department. At Oklahoma, he was a member of the school’s executive leadership team as deputy director for external engagement and advancement.
Count Castigilione among Zac Selmon’s most avid boosters. “We are so thrilled for and proud of Zac Selmon,” Castiglione said. “What a spectacular hire by Dr. Keenum and Mississippi State University. It’s been a true privilege to have Zac on our staff from his beginnings as a graduate assistant to his current role as deputy AD. We know he will be a visionary leader for MSU and the SEC. He’s genuine and authentic and helps make everyone around him better.”
In his remarks, Keenum thanked Bracky Brett, who has served as interim athletic director since John Cohen departed for Auburn last November. In the interim, Brett and MSU has dealt with the death of celebrated football coach Mike Leach and the hiring of his replacement Zach Arnett.
Said Keenum, “The continued success MSU has enjoyed during the search would not have been possible without the steady hand, hard work and wisdom of Bracky Brett. Our university, our fan base, owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude.”