Many Mississippi State fans came into the 2013 season hoping to see Dan Mullen lead the Mississippi State Bulldogs to the next level of the SEC, but so far, those hopes have come up empty. In fact, tough second half losses have led many Mississippi State fans to question if Dan Mullen is in fact the right coach to lead the Bulldogs.
While many have focused on what would happen if Mullen ended up fired at the end of the 2013 season, few have pondered whether or not Mullen might have his own escape hatch. It appears, according to a report on footballrumormill.com, that Mullen has emerged as a potential candidate to replace the fired Paul Pasqualoni at Connecticut.
While a rumor such as this is one is sure to stir up excitement, it is well worth the effort to put some thought into such a rumor. It is also well worth it to remember that nothing is official with any of this news, and in the end, it may turn out be nothing. Many people are potential candidates for a position. Fewer become serious candidates, and even fewer get a crack at a position.
First of all, what does it necessarily mean to emerge as a potential candidate to replace a fired coach? Without a doubt, the Huskies are already working on a plan to have a new coach in place as soon as possible, and they should be ahead of many other schools when hiring time comes. One has to wonder the stage at which this planning has reached. If Connecticut is down to a list of five people they want to target, this becomes something that will be worth following intently for the rest of the season. The other possibility is that Mullen is on a long list of names that the school will cull while deciding whom to target.
Secondly, would Mullen be interested in this position? While the knee jerk reaction might be to call the move a step down, especially considering all of the changes headed to college football next year, there are several reasons Mullen might consider this if offered.
Mullen is a New England guy, having grown up in New Hampshire and having played college ball at Ursinis College in Pennsylvania. To go to UConn would be a bit of a homecoming for Mullen, and a successful stay at UConn might open the door to a possible coaching stop at Penn State, a position for which Mullen was once rumored (albeit briefly and incorrectly for) to be in the hunt.
For speculation sake, say Mullen is interested in going back to the New England area. Would UConn pay Mullen enough money to make the move worth it? The answer is that it could be a possibility. Pasqualoni made a base salary of $400,000 this season and that plus fees tied into other aspects of coaching put him at a salary of $1.7 million for the year. Had he survived until the end of his deal, he would have made $1.9 million per season.
Right now, Mullen makes a base salary of $250,000, but in reality, his yearly pay is about $2.65 million. Could UConn afford to pay Mullen that same amount? They probably could not do that, but they could more than likely offer Mullen something close to that amount.
All of that said, is this something that Mullen would want to consider? That question would probably be answered on how he feels the future will unfold in Starkville. If he believes, as some fans do, that he has done all he can in Starkville, being able to leave to take another head coaching position is quite the parachute out of town. If Mullen honestly believes the Bulldogs can compete for Atlanta during his tenure, it would be somewhat surprising to see him leave Starkville.
In the end, timing and the last four games of the season will have a lot to do with this should Mullen emerge not as a potential candidate but as a serious candidate. Should the Bulldogs lose to Texas A&M and Alabama but defeat Arkansas and Ole Miss, the ball would be in Mullen's court. At 6-6, it would be unlikely that Scott Stricklin would decide to fire Mullen, even if that meant passing up on a supported replacement in Mark Hudspeth. At the same time, at 6-6, Connecticut could present Mullen as a coach that has only had one season below .500, and he could decide to take that position.
If that scenario unfolded, would Stricklin fight hard to keep Mullen or would he let him walk? That answer would depend on what Stricklin felt the true ceiling was for Mullen. If Stricklin had doubts, Mullen deciding to take the Connecticut job would make his life much easier.
What one cannot deny in such a scenario is that the timing could be very beneficial to Stricklin. The Bulldogs could win the Battle for the Golden Egg, and just a few days later, Mullen could announce his intentions to leave for Connecticut. After that, Stricklin could act quickly to hire his next coach. For Stricklin, it would be much easier to hire a coach if the Bulldogs complete another season at 6-6 or better than if he is replacing a fired coach after a losing season.
On the flip side, should the Bulldogs finish below .500, it is tough to see a scenario where Connecticut would be able to hire Mullen. Should that happen, it will be decision to time for Stricklin.