JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mississippi State University and head Dan Mullen have agreed in principle on a new four-year contract worth $10.6 million to keep him in Starkville through the 2014 season.
The new contract, which was made official Thursday after a letter of agreement was signed by both parties that morning, calls for a $1.4 million buyout figure and calls for a significant raise in pay per season for the Bulldogs second-year head coach.
“I know we’re very happy, my wife and I, to be staying here hopefully for a long time to come,” Mullen said. “Really excited with the direction the program is going. Everybody is on the same page and we see a great future at Mississippi State.”
The Starkville Daily News previously reported that Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin and Mullen began talking about a new four-year contract in late October.
The MSU athletic director stated Thursday that the process of working out the deal from his end was based on not committing the athletic department to an irresponsible contract based on the emotions and fear of the maroon and white fan base that Mullen would take another job.
“I’m going to be honest that doesn’t bother me – what bothers me is I want to make sure we have a plan that we can win consistently long term,” Stricklin said. “I want us to make sure that we react to the market in a positive way and not in an emotional way.”
The Starkville Daily News had consistently reported Mullen’s candidacy with certain high-profile head-coaching openings at Miami and Florida.
The agreement, which still needs approval by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board in the coming months, was announced less than 48 hours before the Bulldogs (8-4) take the field in the 2011 Gator Bowl (12:30 p.m., ESPN2) against Michigan (7-5).
“No, we just had an open relationship, it’s great to have someone you can work with,” Mullen said. “There’s no secrets around here, I kept him informed. I never had really any interest in leaving here this year, and now with this deal I certainly have no interest in leaving anytime in the future.”
Mississippi State sophomore wide receiver Chad Bumphis said Mullen grabbed him in the Bulldogs team hotel before Thursday afternoon's practice to inform him of the new agreement that is expected to keep the Bulldogs head coach till 2014. After telling his star receiver from Tupelo, who was previously committed to Florida two years ago because of Mullen, news began to leak out throughout the team.
“He was the reason I came here,” Bumphis said. “I talked to a lot of coaches (in the recruiting process) and you could just tell how sincere he was in what he wanted to do here and I just fell in love with Mississippi State.”
Mississippi State officials confirmed that the amount of the contract to be paid by the state of Mississippi would not change from the previous amount of $250,000. The rest of the financial commitment will be paid by private donations.
“I think (the salary) is market driven,” Stricklin said. “You kind of figured this day would come with this time with any kind of success.”
Mullen and Stricklin both said certain items were not finalized yet in the contract including the salary bump for State’s assistant coaches and plans for a new multi-million dollar football-only facility on campus so the coaches and administration can one day move out of Bryan Athletic Administration Building on campus.
“Scott wants to go there, the president wants to go there, I want to go there,” Mullen said. “So I think it’s something that we’re on the same page. I think we’re going to be able to get that done here in the very near future.”
Mullen, who has a 13-11 record in two seasons 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.
Mullen took the Bulldogs program in 2010 to an 8-4 record and the school’s first New Year’s Day bowl game this century and first Florida bowl game since World War II.
“I’m very happy here, just the direction in two years here I think you see we have the ability to get great players from the state of Mississippi to come play for us, to come represent their state school,” Mullen said. “We have an administration that has a great vision of where the program is going.”
Stricklin confirmed Mullen’s salary in this deal will be higher in each of the four years of the deal but wouldn’t specify on the exact figure.
“Our goal is to build a program that can win consistently and compete for championships,” Stricklin said. “This is a big commitment for us to make sure we have the people in place that can make that happen.”
The contract puts Mullen in the top half of salaries in the Southeastern Conference (Alabama’s Nick Saban leads the pack by making nearly $4 million per season) and one of the highest paid public sector employees in the state of Mississippi.
“It’s a lot of pressure, I better make sure I make the state proud,” Mullen joked. “We play for Mississippi State and we play for the state of Mississippi. So hopefully I give the state a lot to be proud about, not just this Saturday but in years to come.”