Editor’s Note: Each Friday, we dig into the archives of High Country Magazine for a look back at some of our best features that seem befitting today. This week’s article is a August 2012 profile on former ASU Athletics Director Charlie Cobb from August 2012, who at the time was heading into eighth year. Three weeks ago, Cobb resigned to accept the same position at Georgia State University.
By Bill Hensley Lewis (reprinted from The High Country Magazine, August 2012)
Charlie Cobb knows just how a rookie baseball player feels when, for his first time at the bat in the major leagues, he hits it out of the park. That’s what he did when he accepted the job as Athletics Director at Appalachian State. In his first year on the job, the Mountaineers won a national football championship. And then they did it two more times.
Additionally, in 2007, Cobb’s third year at ASU, the football team pulled off one of sport’s biggest and most shocking upsets by beating powerful Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-32. It was a shot heard around the world and still echoes in sports history.
“What a great way to start a career,” he beamed. “Three national titles in as many years and a major upset. I was on cloud nine, and the program was off to a great start.”
With that beginning as a foundation to build upon, Cobb—a talented and dedicated administrator— has slowly and methodically begun assembling a winning team and a solid athletic program. And the results have been phenomenal.
Now in his seventh year at the ASU athletic helm, Cobb, 44, oversees a staff of 90 and a program that offers ten sports for men and ten for women. His annual budget is $16 million.
There have been no national football championships in recent years, but the gridders have had winning seasons and an envied reputation for excellence. An enthusiastic fan base continues to grow.
“Beating Michigan was one of the best things that ever happened to this school,” Cobb said firmly. “Many, many good things came about as a result of that spectacular victory.”
He explained: “Contributions to the program and the university rose substantially, enrollment was up drastically, recruiting was easier, the coaches were happy, applications for athletic positions were numerous, the alumni was proud, attendance and ticket sales increased, scheduling big games was easier, the business community and sponsors came out of the woodwork, and everyone’s job was more enjoyable.
“The school, literally, was on the map,” he continued. “Now it was up to us to see that things continued in that vein, that we keep the momentum going.”
To Cobb and his staff’s credit, there have been numerous athletic accomplishments since that immortal upset:
*Academic success has been recognized nationally by the NCAA
*Seven successive Commissioner’s Cup championships
*Three Germann Cup Championships, recognizing women’s athletic success
*The building of outstanding facilities in football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, and an indoor practice building.
*Record-breaking donations to the Yosef Club, which provides for scholarships and facilities.
*Increased staff salaries
*Scheduling such football opponents as Michigan, LSU, Virginia Tech, Georgia and East Carolina, all of which are “big money” games in addition to football prestige.
In recent years, more than $50 million has been spent on ASU’s physical plant and the school’s athletic facilities are second to none, a showcase of excellence.
Cobb is quick to point out that it took “a total team effort” to achieve the many successes and was not one man’s accomplishments. “Teamwork is the first thing an athlete learns when he engages in a sport,” and that was certainly the case at ASU. “We worked together well.”
“And it sure helps to have a football coach like Jerry Moore who has won nine Southern Conference championships and turned out 84 All-Americans,” Cobb continued, “and an administration that is fully supportive in every way.”
The football stadium houses the 120,000 square foot Appalachian Athletic Center. The seven story complex includes new administrative and football offices, locker rooms, a strength and conditioning center, training facilities, academic study space, and a computer lab for all ASU student-athletes.
The handsome structure also provides premium seating in the form of 600 club-level seats and 18 luxury suites.
“But we will not rest on our laurels,” the personable, hard-working 6-foot-6 athletics director said firmly. “We still have a lot to do to maintain our standing, our reputation for excellence, and our commitment to our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
Chancellor Kenneth Peacock is high in his praise of the outstanding job Cobb and his staff have done. “In addition to being a great Athletics Director,” he said, “Charlie is a good man. He is first and foremost a family man. He is a dreamer and a builder and is always looking for ways to improve athletics. As hard as he pushes our athletes to give their best on the field, he pushes them even harder to excel in academics. I like that.”
Peacock continued with a wry grin, “and his wife is probably a better athlete than he is, but don’t tell him I said that.”
Cobb’s fellow athletics directors have honored him, too, by naming him 2011 Athletic Director of the Year.
Before coming to ASU, Cobb spent seven years as an associate athletics director at NC State, his alma mater. That position followed his work in Atlanta with the Atlanta Sports Council which staged the annual Chick-fil-A Bowl, and with the Georgia Dome, where he was sales manager of that noted arena.
A four year letterman as a football center at State (1986-90), the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Cobb played under Dick Sheridan and was a second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer as a senior. He was also named to the ACC’s All-Academic team and won several academic honors, including the Jim Tatum Award to the senior with the highest grade point average.
A native of West Columbia, SC, Cobb played football and basketball for Airport High School. He graduated from State with honors, receiving a BA degree in Business Management.
After receiving ACC and NFL charities scholarships, Cobb earned an MA in Sports Management from Ohio University in 1992.
“When I first went to college, I wanted to be an architect,” he explained, “but playing sports is too time consuming, and I just didn’t have time for that major. That’s when I switched to being an athletic administrator.”
Cobb is married to the former Lindsey Brecher of Atlanta whom he met at State.
She was an All-ACC soccer star as a goalie and now serves as an assistant women’s soccer coach at ASU.
The couple has two children. Son Harrison is 14 while daughter Branan is 11. Both come by their athletic interests naturally and, according to Cobb, “play whatever sport is in season.”
When he isn’t working, which is seldom, Cobb enjoys life’s simple things. “I like to work around the house and the yard. I find it restful and relaxing, and it helps me keep my mind off complicated matters.”
He also enjoys golfing and playing pick-up basketball games, “although I’m not very good at golf,” he admits candidly.
As for that Michigan game, look for a rematch in 2014 when the teams meet again in Ann Arbor. And, win or lose, the Apps will bring home a check of around a half-million dollars.
Obviously, success pays off. Just ask Charlie Cobb.