Eye on MSU: Mississippi State hits jackpot with Mullen

Joel Coleman
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JOEL COLEMAN
Staff Writer

I was just a 23-year-old graduate assistant in the Mississippi State athletic marketing department back in 2008 when the Bulldogs announced they’d hired Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to be the next head football coach.

I can remember the day vividly when Mullen was introduced inside the Templeton Athletic Academic Center that December. Truth be told, I was sick as a dog that day. I probably had no business being there, but I was one of only two graduate assistants on what was a very small marketing staff back then and I just had to be there to help, and to hear what this brash, somewhat cocky New Englander that experienced so much success with the Gators had to say.

I handed out a whole bunch of ‘Dan is the Man’ t-shirts. While passing them out, I had a conversation with an old friend about Mullen and what MSU could expect.

“I think he’s going to win and be gone before we even know it,” my buddy thought.

“If that happens, MSU hit the jackpot,” I told him.

Here we are, some nine years later and I still feel the same way. If Mullen ever bolts due to his success with the Bulldogs, good for Mississippi State.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports wrote a column this week and his opinion was that Mullen needs to strike while the iron is hot and get out of Starkville soon. This of course came on the heels of MSU manhandling LSU over the weekend.

Honestly, it’s a similar column and thought that many have had over the course of Mullen’s tenure in Starkville. It’s becoming as much of a tradition for folks to write, ‘Mullen should leave’ as it is for people to ring cowbells in the Junction during the Dawg Walk.

Look, I get why. To the rest of the country, Mississippi State is one of the Southeastern Conference’s traditional doormats. Over the last near-decade, Mullen has, at worst, made the Bulldogs respectable and, at best, built them into a yearly dark horse contender in the league.

If Mullen can do that at little old Mississippi State in the middle-of-nowhere Mississippi, what could he do with the resources of a Texas A&M or Notre Dame or Fill-In-The-Blank-U?

As Dodd points out, Mullen is still young for a coach (he’s only 45). He’s been successful at a place that, most times, wasn’t all that successful before he appeared. He’s going to be an attractive candidate for most any opening.

However also, as Dodd mentions, Mullen makes about $4.5 million a year. Not many schools can pony up to even make an offer worth Mullen’s time.

But what if they do? According to reports through the years, Mullen has flirted with other jobs before. What if one finally comes up soon that goes from flirting, to dating to a full-on relationship?

What if MSU loses the only coach that has ever taken them to the top of the national polls? What if the Bulldogs have to bid adieu to the man that helped make Dak Prescott into a local legend and is knocking at the door of doing a similar thing with Nick Fitzgerald?

Should State fans panic? Should the Bulldog faithful scour the worldwide web and search Twitter and see where Mullen is or who he might be calling?

Nope.

Dan Mullen has put Mississippi State in a place where, should he leave, the Bulldogs won’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a head coach. MSU can write the big checks. Mullen has shown wins and big things can indeed come, even in Stark-Vegas.

If recent history is any indication, MSU might not have much to worry about. Maybe Mullen leaves someday, but every year someone declares him gone and every following year, he shows up wearing MSU maroon and white.

But if he does leave, I’ll say again what I said the day he arrived. MSU hit the jackpot. When or if Mullen goes, Bulldog supporters shouldn’t say ‘oh, no.’ They should instead say, ‘Thank you.’

Joel Coleman is the Mississippi State beat writer for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and not necessarily the views of the SDN or its staff.

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