The worst Mississippi State football head coach hires of all-time

Today we take a look at the four worst head coaches in Mississippi State football history.
Sep 10, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Detailed view of a Mississippi State Bulldogs helmet at Arizona
Sep 10, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Detailed view of a Mississippi State Bulldogs helmet at Arizona / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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As we wait to see what the Jeff Lebby era will bring about, let's take a moment to reflect on the men to have preceded him. Mississippi State has been playing football since 1895. Over that time, there have been 36 men to lead the program as head coach.

Unfortunately, when we try to narrow down the list to the four worst coaches the Bulldogs have ever had, there are plenty of candidates. In fact, of the 35 who've coached a game as the man in charge in Starkville, 19 have winning percentages below .500.

Of course, some of those coaches don't belong on this list because they either coached only one season with the Bulldogs or because they coached long before the modern era of the program when the sport was so different.

For instance, the first two coaches to ever lead the program, W. M. Matthews and J.B. Hildebrand each went winless in their lone seasons in charge (1895 and 1896 respectively). On the other end of the spectrum, the most recent head coach to lead the Dogs into battle, Zach Arnett might not have made too many fans in Starkville happy with his 5-6 record in 2023 but he won't be on this list because he had only one season to try to build a program after taking over for the late Mike Leach.

The good news for Mississippi State fans is that the most recent decades of the program have been some of the more successful. Prior to Arnett, the three previous head coaches (Dan Mullen, Joe Moorehead, and Leach) had winning records during an era that spanned from 2009-2022.

So as we count down this list, we'll find that many of the worst coaches in program history come from the middle to later parts of the last century, a sign that in recent decades, Bulldog football has been in better hands than it was in other portions of its long history. So here's our list of the four worst coaches in Mississippi State football history.

No. 4: Paul E. Davis (1962-1966)

The 1960s were not a great era for Mississippi State. With the rise of the S.E.C. traditional powers, life for the Bulldogs was tough as the team would go through the entire decade with just one winning season.

That year was 1963 and it was an improbable 7-2-2 campaign that saw Mississippi State win the Liberty Bowl over N.C. State, the program's first bowl game since 1939 in the second year of Paul E. Davis' tenure.

An Ole Miss alum, Davis was a high school coach at New Albany, Mississippi before taking over at Jones County Junior College. He would arrive in Starkville in 1960 as an assistant before taking over as the man in charge in 1962.

His first season saw his program go just 3-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play. That's why 1963 was such a surprise. However, he couldn't sustain any momentum from that improbable year.

Davis would lead MSU to just a 4-6 record in each of the next two seasons and a 2-8 mark in 1966 that saw the team go 0-6 in S.E.C. play. After that, he and his athletic director (who we will discuss momentarily) were fired and Davis landed at Auburn where he would be an assistant from 1967-1980.

He would then find work at Alabama and Temple as an assistant in both places before he returned to Auburn in 1987 to finish out his coaching career for four years. He passed away in March of 2009 in Alabama.

Davis does get credit for bringing a rare mid-20th-century winning season to Mississippi State. However, a record of 20-28-2 simply didn't cut it. Five years is plenty of time for a coach to get his program figured out but Davis never built a consistent winner at State. Thus, he winds up as No. 4 on our list.