Q&A with Ron Cooper

Defensive Backs Coach Ron Cooper did an exclusive Q&A with Badger Nation's Ronny Whitworth, talking about why he's leaving Wisconsin, how he worked out the details of his departure with Coach Barry Alvarez and Coach Jackie Sherrill, and his thoughts on the secondary moving forward.

BN: Can you talk about, first of all, how this opportunity at Mississippi State came about, and your decision to take advantage of the offer?

Cooper: Well I wasn't looking for anything. They actually made a call and asked Coach Alvarez for permission to talk. (Jackie Sherrill) called me right after he talked to Coach Alvarez. I went in there and visited and just evaluated the overall situation. It was definitely a hard decision, because Coach Alvarez, his staff and everybody has been good. We have good players here and I was looking forward to it. But I just decided just the overall situation, and took a lot of things into (consideration), and just made the decision to make another step.

BN: The decision itself was a tough one for you?

Cooper: It was real tough. It was real tough and a lot of times you don't want to look at what's next in your life but I do think things happen for a reason. And it was just an unbelievable experience. I learned some things from (Alvarez), and what I did…I've never been shy about saying I was going to be a Division I head coach again and this is another move. Another move that I think puts me one step closer to it.

BN: Is this step what you envisioned, to become a defensive coordinator at another big Division I program to help reach that head coaching level again?

Cooper: I knew the steps I would have to take, the places for me to become a Division I assistant, then moving to a position of coordinator and then from there, making the steps to be the head coach again. Everything always goes in that order. It's something that I didn't expect to happen this quick, but things happens for a reason. Something came up, and it's tough. It's a tough one right now, because it's been so good. My wife is still sort of a little upset about it.

BN: She didn't want to move again after you bought that house and everything?

Cooper: You know, we planned for a little longer term here, but I had to look at it and evaluate it and say, is this something that could help me become a head coach again? And Coach Alvarez is very supportive. I talked to him about it. He understands and so, we're going to win this bowl game and move on from there.

BN: Did Mississippi State try to get you to leave here before the Alamo Bowl?

Cooper: I told them, in my talks with them, the first thing I said was, "Coach Alvarez, I'm not leaving right in the middle of this thing, getting ready for a bowl game," and Coach Sherrill was fine. He said, "Oh yeah, there's no doubt." He and Coach Alvarez are friends and they actually talked a couple of times. So it was something we all agreed on. I said if Coach Alvarez wanted me to finish it up and coach it, I wanted to coach it. I wanted to coach the players, and he wanted me to, and Coach Sherrill said "Oh yeah, there's no doubt about that."

BN: What was the reaction from your players when you told them?

Cooper: I just told the guys this is a step I felt like I had to make, and they understand. You know, players are all hoping to make moves during their career, and one coach doesn't mean anything. You know, I'm just a little part of the program here. Some don't…Coach (Alvarez) will hire a good coach and he'll come in and coach them up the right way…I talked to the entire secondary. I told the guys who I coach, where I was and why, they understood, and then we said let's go win a bowl game.

BN: Do you have any ideas about who would be a good fit to come replace you, and will you be a part of the transition in any way?

Cooper: I don't know. I have no idea what will happen. I know right after we get back from the bowl game, I have to be gone. It's a quick move for me. We get back on the 29th, I leave on the 30th.

BN: Will this secondary get better in the future even without you here?

Cooper: Oh there's no doubt. There's some great talent. And the guys have gotten better this year. B.J. (Tucker) has had a great senior year. Jimmy (Leonhard) has had a great sophomore year. Ryan (Aiello) has had a good year and (Scott Starks) has gotten better. And those younger guys are all going to be fine players. That's the sad part. I wish I could stick around and coach those guys because they're going to get better and be a fine secondary next season.

BN: It seems like they really rallied around your style of coaching and philosophies.

Cooper: Well they got better. I wanted them to get better each week. I've been hard on them, but at the same time, they understand why I've been a little bit tough on them.

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