Offseason caravans give university and athletic department officials the chance to hit the road and spread the good word about the state of their programs. For Mississippi State and Coach Dan Mullen, it’s no different. In between doing somewhat awkwardly close interviews or playing Tiger Woods golf, Mullen and his maroon-clad contigent spent the last week dotting the Southeast on the annual Road Dawgs Tour. Since starting May 9, the tour made 12 scheduled meet and greets in Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia.
The group made their second-to-last stop in Nashville, hosted by the MSU Nashville Alumni Association. Here are a few notes…
- In continuing the great "Today. Tomorrow. Forever." push from the MSU marketing department, Mullen stressed the importance of a football-only complex. After explaining our facilities are “12-out-of-12 when it comes to the SEC,” Mullen noted that his office is in the Bryan Building, while his players converge at the Holliman Athletic Center and the Palmerio Center. “The players are never around the coaches’ offices,” Mullen said. “And if I call them to see me, they start getting paranoid.”
- Renderings of a newly expanded Davis Wade Stadium have excited the fan base, but it still sounds like it is a few years down the road. “After (Athletic Director) Scott Stricklin finishes crunching the numbers, we are expecting to have around 3,500 names on the waiting list for tickets,” Mullen said. “Before we put shovels in the ground for expansion, we are going to have to wait until the demand for season tickets is around 10,000 and that looks to be in 2014.” He also alluded to the fact that once the endzone expansion is complete, it would be home to the student section, like at Ole Miss.
- For those that are hitched, you have been told the cliché “happy wife, happy life.” Football fans know this. If a coaches’ wife doesn't get a good vibe about a town, she’ll put her foot down. For example, Rich Rodriguez’s wife + Paul Finebaum making fun of her 80s hairstyle = No thanks, T-Town. When Mullen opened the floor to questions, the first one was about his wife - “Is Megan happy?” After cracking a joke that she isn’t right now because he’s been on the road all week, he explained they both love the Starkville community. He stressed how generous and gracious people have been to his family since their arrival. Good to know, because I hear Happy Valley residents slaughter their young and is a hot-bed for terrorist activity. Please don’t take our coach, Penn State!
- Depth will again be an area of concern as despite returning 17 starters, by the start of fall practice, true and redshirt freshmen will make up 39 of the 85 scholarships on the team. With the departure of seniors like J.C. Brignone and K.J. Wright, Mullen stressed a leadership void and a little immaturity issues. "It's up to us to make them grow up pretty quick," Mullen said. "And over the summer, there is a certain strength coach named Matt Balis whose job it'll be to shake, cry or sweat the immaturity out of them. What he doesn't get out of them, the other coaches will in August."
- But the thing Mullen touched on throughout the speech was the state of the program is in pretty great shape but there is still work to be done. He's right. Winning nine games and the Gator Bowl is quite an accomplishment for a program that was one of the worst of the BCS conferences a few years ago. But we—and Mullen—want more. "The challenge is the immediate, not the future," Mullen said. "We have to keep asking ourselves 'are we satisfied?' I know I'm not. I want to keep climbing that mountain. It'll be tough but one day we'll get to the top." Here's hoping.