Why Mississippi State's Dan Mullen tops coaching rumor lists
Dan Mullen hasn’t won a division title, much less a conference title.
But his name is always mentioned at the top of the list of candidates when there’s a top national coaching position open.
Last year, rumors swirled that he was going to Michigan or Florida. In the past, he’s supposedly been a target for Penn State and Miami. A few weeks ago, he was considered a prime candidate at Georgia.
That’s because the job he’s done at Mississippi State has been nothing short of amazing. With a 54-35 record in Starkville, Mullen’s .606 winning percentage is the school’s best since Allyn McKeen’s stint from 1939-1948.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Bulldogs are headed to a bowl game.
They’ve gone a combined 10-6 the last two seasons in the toughest division in college football including Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
As the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff committee’s inaugural set of rankings last year, Mississippi State owns a place in college football history.
Mullen has done it all with fewer resources than his SEC West competition. He’s done it at a remote campus coaching a program with a history of finishing near the bottom in the SEC standings. He’s done it without a slew of blue-chip recruits.
And despite all the rave reviews and rumors, he hasn’t been spotted at any airports or hotel suites negotiating with rival schools.
Winning a conference title may be easier at other places, but Mullen appreciates the strong following and job security he has at Mississippi State, which pays him an average of $4.275 million in a four-year deal he signed in 2015.
“I don’t like commenting on other jobs just because it’s a waste of time,” Mullen told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “I love the one that I have. Not much else on it besides that.”
Getting the most of talent and resources aren’t the only attributes that set Mullen apart.
In an era when quarterback play is so important, Mullen has proven ability to develop players at the position. And not just one or two players.
He coached Alex Smith at Utah and Tim Tebow at Florida. Before Dak Prescott, Tyler Russell led a record-setting Mississippi State offense. Prior to them, Mullen won nine games with Chris Relf.
Freshman Nick Fitzgerald, the leading candidate to succeed Prescott, showed promise in limited duty in seven games this season.
Though Prescott’s loss will be felt, the Bulldogs are on track to continue their upward trend. Mullen is stockpiling talent, especially at receiver.
Receivers Gabe Myles and Donald Gray have two years left. Receivers Malik Dear and Justin Johnson, DB Jamal Peters and LB Gerri Green have three.
Mississippi State signed Mullen to a four-year deal last year paying him on average $4.275 million annually. Georgia, South Carolina and Maryland can afford that, but can also find cheaper options than Mullen, a coach that’s won more than nine games once in his career.