Here we go again.
Another season, another trip around the ol’ college football coaching carousel. And, for the ninth straight year, Dan Mullen is one of the horses.
Ever since his arrival in 2009, Mullen’s name has been thrown out for a handful of jobs. Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Miami, Oregon, Tennessee, Florida. I’m sure there are others.
Dan Mullen has been able to find consistent success at Mississippi State, something that hasn't been done since the Roosevelt and Truman presidencies. Even Jackie Sherrill found bumps along the road during his stay in Starkville.
This presents him as an intriguing candidate for many schools, and for good reason. However, his name comes with a sense of controversy.
Fanbases across the country have mixed feelings about Mullen. He’s taken State to eight straight bowl games, and he is one of the best quarterback developers in the sport. On the flip side, he hasn't won a championship and has a lackluster record against ranked teams.
That sense of insecurity is what has kept Dan Mullen at Mississippi State for what is now nine seasons. Reportedly, schools have wanted him. He interviewed for the Miami job in 2015. He was one of two finalists for the Oregon job last year. In the end, however, none of those conversations gained any traction.
But, this season presents a whole new situation; one that could lure Mullen away from the friendly confines of “Starkvegas” once and for all. The University of Florida fired head coach Jim McElwain after two and a half seasons. McElwain led the Gators to consecutive SEC title games in his first two years, but did so against a mediocre-at-best division and by playing a style of offensive football that wouldn't win six games if it were presented at most other schools.
Florida’s had two prior job openings since 2009. Urban Meyer “retired” after 2010, paving the way for Will Muschamp. After Muschamp was let go in 2014, McElwain was hired. Both of those times, there was much speculation for the two-time national champion, former Gator offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to make his triumphant return to Gainesville. But, a supposed turbulent relationship with then-athletic director Jermey Foley prohibited that from happening.
Well, Foley is no longer the AD at Florida. Instead, it’s former Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, who is known to have a wonderful relationship with his former school’s head football coach.
This presents the perfect opportunity for the Gators to pull the trigger on Dan Mullen. Florida is one of the top programs in college football. It possesses three national titles, eight conference titles, a recruiting hotbed, and a treasure trove of resources; some things Mississippi State does not have. If Mullen can win eight-to-nine games in Starkville with a team full of three stars, imagine what he could do in Gainesville with four and five stars!
On the other hand, there are a plethora of reasons for Dan Mullen to remain at Mississippi State. He has proven that he can put together a national contender at State. Not only has he had past success, winning at least nine games three times and leading the Bulldogs to their 3rd ten-win season in program history, but he has started constructing the foundation for future seasons.
With nine regular season wins in sight, MSU could be even better next year. A majority of their starters will return, including quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams. Looking even further down the road, a four star QB is backing up Fitzgerald, in addition to another four star that is committed in this year’s class.
Speaking of recruiting, Mullen has always found pride in his ability to find talent in Mississippi. I don’t know if you're aware, but Ole Miss is having some NCAA troubles, which has pushed them considerably behind in the recruiting game. For the 2018 class, Mississippi State is ranked 15th nationally (5th in the SEC); whereas, the Rebels are in a staggering 77th place, which places them dead last in the conference.
Furthermore, Mullen is pretty well set financially. He is currently the 14th highest-paid coach in America; a number that is sure to go up if other schools come calling his name.
Dan Mullen is, and has always been, one of the hottest names in coaching. His ability to develop underrated talent, particularly at quarterback, is unmatched, as are his records at Mississippi State.
Will this be the year he bounces and heads for a bigger, better program? I cannot answer that question, but there is a legitimate chance. Regardless, Dan Mullen is in an ideal current situation, and he will continue to bring the Bulldogs success if other schools decide to pass yet again.