There has been a lot of smoke around Dan Mullen’s future over the last week or so. Even before the Egg Bowl there were media reports speculating that Mullen was a candidate for several jobs and/or wanted to leave Mississippi State after this season. Now even more smoke has emerged after he appeared uninspired during the Egg Bowl loss, and the Georgia job has opened up.
And, of course, with such a loss to Ole Miss last week there are more than a few State fans who wouldn’t care if Coach Mullen left or not. I have a feeling they’ll come back to him in time, after the wounds of the game have healed. After all, we stand about a 2% chance of finding a replacement who could win as consistently, and recruit better (since most of the people griping are griping about recruiting), and stick around for long enough to see it through. Say what you will about Mullen’s shortcomings, he’s taken the program to new heights and positioned it for sustained success.
Now, I’ll go through each rumored landing spot for Dan Mullen and try to objectively decipher its likelihood:
Mississippi State: let’s start with his current position.
Mullen is scheduled to make $4.2 million in 2016 after $4 million in 2015. Currently he is 16th in the country salary-wise, and the raise would put him at #12 if everyone else’s salary stayed the same.
While there is 5-10% of the MSU fan base who is upset with Mullen, and either indifferent about his future with the program or wanting him fired, the LARGE majority of fans are fond of him and appreciate the job he’s done in Starkville. The administration fully supports him and has provided him with a number of large facility upgrades during his tenure. Add all that up and he’s got a pretty good gig in his current position…so it would really take something special to pry him away.
Maryland: there have been a lot of rumors about the Terps wanting Mullen. They may want him, but it seems highly unlikely he would go there.
Media reports believe that Under Armour’s influence with the program is a huge draw, although I don’t know why it would be. What could they give Mullen that he doesn’t have already at MSU, or in their relationship with Adidas?
Also there’s speculation that Mullen would like to get back to the northeast. That could be true, but I haven’t met too many yankees who want to go back to the cold after living in the south – usually they stay in the warm weather.
Finally, the idea that it would be easier to win. I don’t understand this one at all as he would be leaving the fertile recruiting grounds of the south but still have to compete in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.
Miami: they were supposedly turned off by Mullen’s big ego five years ago when he acted like he “invented the game” of football. I don’t know how things would have changed by now considering he’s taken a team to #1 since then.
Dan is all about “fan support comes first, then winning”. That doesn’t really jive at Miami. They are a small, private school who plays in an NFL stadium. The surrounding community likes pro sports a lot and going to the beach. They aren’t going to fill that stadium unless the Hurricanes are in the top 5.
The old, nasty facilities narrative at Miami is overblown and a bit untrue, but they still don’t have what Mississippi State has. There’s no doubt it’d be easier to pull recruits to South Beach than Starkville, but Miami hasn’t done it since Butch Davis and Mullen isn’t exactly known as an ace recruiter.
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Georgia: this is a job I could see Coach Mullen leaving for. Not because media reports have said he wants the job, but because every coach would want this job. It’s easily a top 5 job with an argument for being the best job in the country. They are light years ahead of Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern in size and strength in the 4th best state for football recruiting. It’s almost like you’re standing in a gold mine and the only people you’re competing against have broken arms.
The thing is, I’m not sure why UGA would want Mullen. He’s a good coach, but so was Mark Richt. They fired Richt because they want to compete for and win a national title. He folded in a lot of big games, a similar trait to Coach Mullen.
In the biggest games Mullen has coached, the [MSU] Bulldogs have looked unprepared at times, and he is conservative to a fault – trying not to lose. Georgia wants a big game coach but Mullen hasn’t shown that he is.
Virginia: the Cavaliers definitely play in the weaker side of the ACC, but is that really a reason to leave MSU?
Out of all of the above jobs I’d say this would be #2 on the list, but I still don’t see it happening. The only way it would is if he just really wants to be on the east coast.
It might be easier to win in the ACC, but you have to remember that he won’t be able to sell the SEC in recruiting – and it’s not like he’s known as a stellar recruiter anyway. If you make it to the ACC Championship Game, can you beat Clemson or Florida State, and then can you actually compete in a College Football Playoff setting? I’m not so sure.
Aside from all that, I highly doubt UVA would be willing to ante up a top 10 salary for a coach that averages eight wins per year.