Dan Mullen Has Lost His Leverage


Nov 22, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen reacts during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who practices any type of negotiations, whether it is closing out multi-million dollar business deals or trying to get their two year old to eat their brussel sprouts, knows that the only way to get what you want is to have the most leverage in the negotiations. Without leverage, you have zero chance of getting whatever it is you want in those negotiations.

Dan Mullen is going to get a pay raise and contract extension. There has been all kinds of talk about the soon to come raise and extension since Mississippi State started 9-0 for the first time ever in school history. The question now is just how much is that raise going to be? I calculated back when Hugh Freeze was given his raise what I thought it would be, but things have certainly changed since I gave that opinion. The biggest change is Dan Mullen has lost his leverage in the negotiations.

When the regular season was over, there were two major job openings that Dan Mullen’s name was being mentioned as a possible candidate. Those two jobs were Florida and Michigan. The idea that Mullen would ever go to Florida was silly from the get go because Foley and Mullen had a pretty strained working relationship when Mullen was there as the offensive coordinator. The Michigan job was legitimate. The Wolverines made no bones about it, their number 1 guy was Jim Harbaugh. If he hadn’t decided to go back to his alma mater, the Wolverines would have made a hard push to get Mullen. They did get their guy, and now there isn’t a significant job opening available for Mullen and his agent to use to coax the biggest raise possible from Scott Stricklin and the Bulldog Club. It’s possible that Lousiville and Michigan State might become open if either of their coaches get offered NFL jobs and they bolt, but currently there aren’t any openings which would be serious threats for Mullen to leave.

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State Bulldogs /

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Making matters worse for Mullen is the team has looked ill-prepared in their most recent games. The Bulldogs looked like they didn’t seem too concerned with beating a motivated Ole Miss team in the Egg Bowl. You also have to wonder if the Bulldogs were too wrapped up in the distractions of South Beach instead of focusing on the task at hand which was to win a bowl game. The one thing that you can’t like seeing is not being adequately prepared when you lose. If you just get outplayed, you tip your cap and move on. If you aren’t prepared, that is a reflection of the the coaching staff, and that is the last thing you want to happen if you are going to try to negotiate a contract extension.

I’m not going to pretend I have any insider information about the negotiations, but I have no problem speculating on what I think might be Scott Stricklin’s thought process in these negotiations. Stricklin knows he doesn’t have the budget of other schools in the SEC, and he firmly believes he has to use the resources available to him much more wisely than other schools in the conference. Of the 46 games Mullen has won, 41% of those wins have come in 2 of the 6 years he has been the head coach. He won 9 in 2010 and 10 in 2014. Stricklin wants to give Mullen a raise, but he also doesn’t want to overpay. Ole Miss made Hugh Freeze, a coach who has yet to win 10 games in a season at Ole Miss, one of the highest paid coaches in all of college football because his agent is one of the shrewdest in the business. Stricklin could be telling Mullen’s agent that he wants to see if Mullen can do this one more time before he breaks the bank to give Mullen a substantial raise.

Whenever the school announces Mullen’s newest contract, it will be interesting to see how much it is for. Without any leverage for Mullen and his agent, whatever amount the two agree upon will simply be a reflection of what the school believes he is worth. It won’t be because Mullen was able to leverage his way to a bigger deal.