Kent Austin will be Cornell’s 26th football coach, the Athletics Department confirmed on Jan. 26, 2010, replacing Jim Knowles ’87 as the Roger J. Weiss ’61 Head Coach of Football.
Austin was offensive coordinator at the University of Mississippi for the past two seasons, the same school at which Knowles was defensive coordinator before coming to Cornell.
During his time with Ole Miss, Austin helped guide the team to two consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time since 1961-62. Both of Austin’s seasons at Ole Miss concluded in Cotton Bowl wins — the last Cotton Bowl victory for Ole Miss was when Knowles was still defensive coordinator.
In 2009, the Rebels were tied for No. 39 in the country in scoring offense with 32.9 points per game.
In his first year after taking over as offensive coordinator, Austin’s 2008 squad ranked No. 28 in the country with 32.1 points per game, up from 20.1 the prior year.
Before his time with the Rebels, Austin found success in the Canadian Football League first as a player and then coach. He entered Canadian play after two NFL seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Among his numerous roles, Austin was an MVP quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, helping his team win the Grey Cup over the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1989. He also played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and started as quarterback with the Toronto Argonauts and the British Columbia Lions, the latter with whom he made his second Grey Cup title in 1994.
Leaving his thriving career as a quarterback, Austin first coached the quarterbacks of the Ottawa Renegades, after which he was offensive coordinator for the Argonauts. He led the Argonauts’ offense to victory in the CFL championship in 2004. Argonauts coach Mike Clemons fired Austin in 2006 after the team’s offense struggled due to injuries and Austin’s playcalling, according to the CFL website. The final installment in his Canadian saga comes from his post as head coach for the Roughriders, whom he led to yet another Grey Cup title in 2007 before moving on to Ole Miss.
“I’m really excited because I know he has a great winning history,” said junior safety Anthony Ambrosi on the announcement of Austin’s new coaching job. “He runs an exciting offense and I think he’s exactly what the team needs right now.”
Knowles resigned on Dec. 23, 2009, to take the defensive coordinator job at Duke University. The team was 2-8 in his last season as head coach, and finished No. 6 on offense and No. 7 in defense in the Ivy League. After his resignation, the search for a replacement began immediately.
“There were about 20 or so supreme candidates [Athletics director Andy Noel] was pleased with,” Ambrosi said.
Ambrosi noted that the Cornell football coaching position was “able to pique so much national ability from such great talent."
"[Noel was] obviously looking for a coach with high energy and a good attitude," he said.