Jared Bruggeman talks about stepping down as director of atheletics at Missouri Southern State University during a press conference on Tuesday at MSSU. Globe | Roger Nomer

There's another vacancy to fill in the Missouri Southern athletics department.

Jared Bruggeman, the Lions' athletics director for the past 11 years, announced on Tuesday he will step down effective March 16, coinciding with the end of the winter sports season. After that, Bruggeman will continue to work at MSSU, collaborating on the potential development of a sports management program and on athletic fundraisers.

"The reason why we're doing that (change in mid-March) is I want to get through the winter sports, but also there needs to be some time for transition," Bruggeman said at an afternoon news conference in the North End Zone Facility. "As far as hiring a replacement, that's a really good time, and there's not a lot of stress to get it done quickly or in a certain time frame. Missouri Southern is a great place. They are going to have great applicants, and it's going to be awesome. It's going to be awesome for everyone involved."

Cori Reid, MSSU's assistant athletics director for facilities and event management, becomes the Lions' interim athletics director on March 17. She held the same position at MSSU from 2012-14, then left to become athletics director at Neosho High School before returning to Missouri Southern in 2019.

"One of my stipulations is that once I transition out after the winter season, I'm available for her to help with things," Bruggeman said. "Cori is a wonderful person. When she was here before, I didn't like it when she left and went to Neosho. ... We kept in contact, she kept expressing interest in coming back to Southern. We had that opportunity; I jumped at the chance to bring her here. ... I have 100% faith in her being able to step into the role and do all the right things and handle all the situations."

One of the current situations is hiring a head football coach to succeed Jeff Sims, who was relieved of his duties on Dec. 2. Bruggeman said applications are still being received, but interviews have not begun. The Lions plan to play a four-game schedule this spring.

"The search for a football coach is underway and is anticipated to conclude within the next few weeks," MSSU President Dean Van Galen said in an email. "In light of the timing of that search and the AD transition, Cori Reid will lead the involvement of Lion athletics in the football head coach search and hiring process. I have full confidence in Cori Reid to serve as interim director of athletics. At this point, a timeline for an AD search has not been established."

Bruggeman succeeded Sallie Beard as athletics director in 2009, coming to Joplin after four years in athletics administration at both Northern Arizona and North Dakota. Bruggeman's tenure at Missouri Southern has seen the addition of major facilities on campus through fundraising efforts, including Warren Turner Stadium for the baseball team and the North End Zone Facility. There also has been an overhaul of the strength and conditioning center at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

"It was a group effort," Bruggeman said. "It means a lot to show how this campus can progress by working together, having donors out there, working with community. Missouri Southern has really advanced itself well in the athletics world certainly with facilities. (Examples are) the video board, not only this one (in the football stadium) but also the one in Leggett & Platt. We have the scorers' tables, we've renovated the floor, we've done every locker room in that facility. We built this building, the baseball stadium, renovated softball (complex), got a new scoreboard for soccer.

"All those things are part of it, and that's with community effort. Getting to know the people of Joplin and in this region has been special, and I want to thank the donors and the boosters and all the support we've had to make this move forward."

"On behalf of MSSU, I express gratitude to Jared for his contributions to Lion athletics over the past 11 years," Van Galen said. "He was especially instrumental in the development and upgrade of our athletics facilities."

Bruggeman isn't sure about his next chapter.

"I've thought a lot about that," he said. "COVID has changed the world a lot and what's important. I'm not sure if I want to be in athletics or not. It's been a great run for me, but also there are other opportunities out there. I'm going to look at all the options and see what's available. As far as (my) kids, one is going to be going to college and the other (two) are still around. I still have to figure out how to manage and take care of that, but it's also a chance to explore options and live where I want to go and do what I want to do.

"If there is going to be a good time, this is a good way to transition out and figure out what the next steps are in life. That's kind of where I'm at. ... There are opportunities for change, and sometimes when the opportunity is right, you have to seize it. A new president is going to do a great job. I'm excited about him. I think this is a good time to do it. We both agree on that, so that's the direction we're moving. ... Sometimes change is what we need."

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