No greener pastures elsewhere for Freeze, Mullen
Ole Miss and Mississippi State have longstanding football traditions, but neither program is a perennial winner in the SEC. Not until the arrivals of Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen, at least.
So it stands to reason other schools with prouder histories of success on the gridiron might have an interest in wooing one of these coaches out of the Magnolia State. Dan Mullen’s ties to struggling Florida can’t be overlooked, nor can Hugh Freeze’s meteoric rise from high school coach to head man of the No. 3 team in the country in less than a decade.
But there are no greener pastures than the ones Freeze and Mullen are currently enjoying in Mississippi, no matter the national powerhouse programs calling their names.
Every man has his price; that is to say if any school added enough zeroes to the end of a paycheck Freeze and Mullen would have to give it consideration. However, when grading a coaching job solely on the merits of a program, its university and its fan base, neither coach will find a better opportunity than the ones they’re enjoying in the Magnolia State.
There are two key reasons why Freeze and Mullen ought to stay put in Mississippi long-term:
- Both programs are in the SEC, and right now if you’ve got one of the 14 head coaching jobs in the conference, you don’t want to give that up. The SEC is leaps and bounds ahead of every other conference in recruiting and on-field performance; even James Franklin took a historically bad program at Vanderbilt and turned it into a national success story using the SEC as a major selling point. Freeze and Mullen are coaching in the best league college football has to offer, and no other school or conference can outdo what the SEC can provide them. Both coaches can recruit top-flight prospects by selling the appeal of the SEC, and both coaches stand to remain in the national spotlight by remaining in a conference with nationally televised games every weekend. The SEC keeps some exclusive company atop the college football world, and neither coach will ever have as much success outside the conference as they’re enjoying this season.
- Both coaches are reaching unprecedented heights at their respective programs, and both have the opportunity to become legends at their schools by sticking around and continuing what’s being built before our eyes. The iconic figures at the core of both programs date back decades into the past, and if both coaches can regularly reach the 9-10 win plateau they’ll be icons themselves in no time. Mississippi is home to some of the most passionate fans in America, and these coaches can be heroes in the state if they stay. If Mullen goes to Florida, he’d just fall in line with names like Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier. He’d be expected to win titles every year, and even if he did he’d just be another name in a long line of great Gators coaches. The same could be said for Freeze if he bolted for a school like, say, Michigan. In Mississippi those two coaches could set the standard for excellence at Ole Miss and State, and they’ll never be more adored by any other fan base as much as they’re adored by Mississippians in their current jobs.
And if you must bring dollars into the equation (and I couldn’t tell you how much certain schools would be able to offer these guys down the line), I find it hard to believe there’s more money outside the SEC than within the nation’s most prominent conference. The SEC has a lucrative TV deal with ESPN, and virtually every game pitting two conference teams against one another is a lock for a national television spot.
That TV money translates into money to keep these two coaches around long-term, so even though Mississippi State is not Florida, it could still likely offer Mullen “Florida money” (again, this is merely a hunch).
The Magnolia State is home to two top 3 teams, and will be the backdrop for College GameDay on consecutive weekends after not hosting the show for many years. Freeze and Mullen are just beginning to approach the summit of the mountain they’ve been climbing at their respective schools, so to walk away now in favor of starting over at another program would seem more frustrating than worthwhile.
Why leave to rebuild Florida when you can stay in the SEC West and own Florida for years to come? (Sorry to keep picking on you, Florida, but you seem like the most obvious potential opening at a longstanding power.)
Freeze and Mullen have a great thing going in Mississippi, and neither wants to screw it up. So while it seems strange to admit, there are no greener pastures than the ones those coaches are inhabiting in the Magnolia State. Get used to the success, Mississippians, because I think your coaches are here for the long haul.