MSU football coach Dan Mullen raises the Golden Egg Trophy after the Bulldogs defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 31-3 on Saturday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Tuesday started with Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen's name being thrown around the rumor mill about him being top candidate for Penn State's head coaching job.Â
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Bulldogs fans have become accustomed to this scenario as Mullen's name has been brought up for numerous head coaching job openings in his three years at MSU.
With the latest rumor claiming that Mullen is at the top of the Nittany Lions' wish list, Mullen had something to say during a brief media gathering on Tuesday.
"I'm sure I'm on everybody's (wish list)," Mullen said. "Every time a job comes open, doesn't my name come up? You know our policy, we'll talk Mississippi State football and that's all we ever talk about."
Since fans have become accustomed to the rumor mill throwing his name out, Mullen did have a message for Bulldog nation.
"I'm very happy here," said Mullen. "The school has done a great job in supporting us and believing in what we are trying to do. We have a long way to go and we need to continue that and go sell out our bowl tickets right now. We need to travel to whatever bowl game selects us next week, continue to sell out the stadium and increase the waiting list so we can expand the stadium seating that everybody wants to do, and continue to push on to the future as we try to compete in the toughest division in college football."
During the offseason last year, MSU and Mullen reached a new contract agreement, which he is still happy with.
"I was very pleased and this school stepped up last year and took care of me," said Mullen. "I know I'm very happy with the agreement that we came upon last year."
Mullen had a team meeting with his players Tuesday afternoon and where he said he would tell them what he normally does.
"I'll tell the same thing, that I'm happy here, and let's worry about being here," said Mullen. "I'm sure my name is going to come up. Every single job that came open last year had my name come up and it appears that a lot of them have this year. I don't know. I have a lot people texting me that someone is saying this about you, but I'm pretty busy so I don't have time to pay much attention to it."
During the team meeting, Mullen said he was going to focus more on other things than coaching rumors.
"What I talk about is making sure their grades are the right way so they get all their bowl gifts," said Mullen. "That's discussion number one, discussion number two is to give them an outlined schedule of when they're going to get to go home, when they are expected to report to the bowl site, what their lifting schedule is going to be, like during finals, and when our next team meeting will be to start practice."
Even though Mullen's name gets mentioned when it comes to head coaching openings, he doesn't view it as a negative thing for MSU.
"I think it's great for the program," said Mullen. "I would imagine there are either two rumors about you. Either rumors that you're going somewhere, or rumors that you're getting fired, so I'll take the going somewhere rumor better than the getting fired rumors."
There are no rumors of Mullen getting fired at MSU even though they didn't have the season they were wishing for. However, the Bulldogs did earn their second consecutive bowl eligibility with their 31-3 win over Ole Miss last Saturday. It's unclear what bowl State will compete in, but they do know that they will begin practice for it Friday, December 9.
Being the competitor that he is, Mullen is definitely more focused on preparing to win a bowl game than the coaching change rumors.
"You obviously want to win the last game of the season," said Mullen. "We won one bowl game this past weekend and because of that we get another one. We're going to play at the end of December and in January, you're looking at nine months before we step on the field again and that's nine months of winning or nine months of losing as the last taste you have in your mouth walking off the field."
One team the Bulldogs could possibly meet in the Liberty Bowl, if that is where they go, would be in-state rival Southern Mississippi.
Recently, Mullen and USM head coach Larry Fedora have had a back-and-forth in the media, but it was a surprise to Mullen.
"I didn't even know there was a back-and-forth," said Mullen. "I had been on the road all day recruiting and someone had a camera in my face and said 'what's your comments about Larry Fedora's comments?' and I like Larry a lot, have a lot of respect for Larry and I think he's an excellent football coach. He's a competitor just like me so I'm sure he gets his competitive juices flowing."
Even though Mullen claims there isn't any beef between him and Fedora, he wouldn't be opposed to playing them in the Liberty Bowl, and when asked if he would, Mullen responded, "Obviously not, I scheduled them. It's a good rivalry in the state and I'm excited to play that game in 2014-15."
The likelihood of MSU and USM meeting in the Liberty Bowl is slim, and what bowl the Bulldogs go to isn't what Mullen is focusing on at the moment as he and his coaches are on the recruiting trail.
"It's busy, this is busiest time of year," said Mullen. "This is our first opportunity to get on the road and we have seven guys out there beating the path trying to get some great players to come play for us."
Who the Bulldogs recruit could change a bit as some current players, have the possibility of leaving early to go the next level. The three players whose names come up about forgoing their seniors years are juniors Johnthan Banks, Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox. All three have the decision to make whether they want to fill out the NFL paperwork or not, but Mullen encourages them to fill it out even if they are planning on staying.
"I always encourage all of them to fill out the paper work," said Mullen. "If they get interest, we fill out the paper work and see where their status is and then we'll sit down with the family and make an educated decision of what's best for these young guys' futures."
Mullen isn't trying to push any of the players out of his program or school by any means, because he would love to have all of his top players back next season, but thinks it's good for them to explore their options.
"It's always a good decision to stay in school," said Mullen. "That's what I believe now, but is it a good decision to leave as well, that's what we want to make sure of. If it's a good decision to leave, especially if you're a first-round draft pick, that's life changing money for you and family for generations to come and you should jump on that."