By MATTHEW STEVENS
While Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen remains a top candidate for the opening at the University of Miami, the Bulldogs second-year coach did not visit the Sunshine state Wednesday.
State athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed to the Starkville Daily News that due to flu-like symptoms Mullen cancelled his recruiting trip to the Fort Lauderdale area to see three-star defensive end Jonathan Harris out of Boynton Beach.
Mullen told a group of reporters Tuesday evening at the Conerly Trophy presentation in Jackson that he was scheduled to meet with Harris, who is the only Florida prospect verbally committed to State’s 2011 class and expects to graduate next month in order to participate in spring drills, but Stricklin said “his understanding” was his physical health forced him to cancel on that trip.
A text message to Mullen by the Starkville Daily News requesting comment on whether he left Starkville Wednesday was not immediately returned.
Mullen, who has a 13-11 record in two season with Mississippi State, has consistently said he has had no contact with anybody related to any current Division 1 openings.
While at MSU, Mullen has become the first coach to win his first two Egg Bowl matchups since 1940 when Allyn McKeen accomplished the feat. This season, Mullen was able to lead MSU past Florida and Georgia in the same season for the first time in school history and its first national ranking since 1999.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that according to sources close to the situation Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt met with Gruden Wednesday morning to discuss the vacancy but the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach opted to keep his options open which include the possibility of more openings in the National Football League and Gruden is not expected to be named Miami’s next head coach.
Despite having the flu, Mullen did attend the Conerly Trophy presentation in the hope of ending speculation of his interest in other schools.
“Even though I have the flu, to avoid all speculation I was coming,” Mullen said in Jackson Tuesday evening. “I figured (if he didn’t attend) everybody would be ‘oh my gosh what happened?”
After multiple news outlets were reporting Mullen as a candidate for both the University of Minnesota and the University of Miami, The Starkville Daily News asked him directly Monday afternoon via a text massage about the speculation surrounding his name and both programs.
20 minutes after that text was sent, Mullen used his Twitter account to address the speculation writing ‘with all the rumors, all I am mulling over is the flu and what bowl we are going too.’
Stricklin confirmed to the Starkville Daily News Monday evening that his department is working with Mullen on a new four-year contract that will set to run until 2014.
“We're going to be smart and aggressive in this process,” Stricklin said. “The normal protocol for something like this and the way we’ve done it in the past is to rip up the old contract and sign a brand new four-year deal.”
Multiple phone messages by the Starkville Daily News to office of Mullen’s agent, Rick Diamond, have not been returned.
Under Mississippi state law, contracts with state employees can last no longer than four years.