If you weren’t previously aware, the University of Tennessee finally parted ways with embattled coach Butch Jones Sunday. Combined with Mississippi State’s inspired performance against Alabama on Saturday, this fanned the already intense flames of the Dan-Mullen-to-UT rumor mill. Which is totally legit if you’ve been in a coma since 2006.
The only reasonably realistic argument that anyone can make in regard to the Tennessee job being better than Mississippi State is that UT has some high rolling alums willing to spend copious amounts of cash on football. My immediate counter-argument is that one of these high rollers is also famous for owning the Cleveland Browns. Yeah it’s a red herring argument, but it’s the effing CLEVELAND BROWNS. Anyway, a more realistic counter-argument is that with the onset of high TV payouts going to all Power 5 schools, the whole “we can pay him more” thing is a little misleading. Tennessee ends up splitting that sports revenue amongst several more sports than Mississippi State does. UT’s athletic department has also been reported to be $200 Million in debt as recently as 2013.
Now let’s go through some of the dum-dum reasoning why some of you think Tennessee is a better coaching destination than Mississippi State:
A job isn’t about the current situation, it’s about the potential:
We start with a real head scratcher. If I come to your door and offer you a job at a company whose stock has dropped fairly consistently since 2006, does it make sense to sell you on the future of that company? Not really. Especially when a lot of the same complete idiots who have been running the company since 2006 are still in charge. Tennessee is trending in a completely different direction than Mississippi State, and as a new football coach you better hope things turn around in less than 3-4 years or you’re the one everyone’s gonna blame.
Tennessee has the power to recruit better than Mississippi State:
On the surface, this seems like a pretty legitimate argument. Recruiting rankings for basically the past forever point to Tennessee’s ability to recruit better than MSU, but allow me to sell short on Tennessee’s potential to recruit: As Tennessee continues to lose recruiting ground to Clemson and ever-improving Memphis, NC State and Virginia Tech teams (they may be losing ground to Kentucky at this point, let’s be real), Mississippi State’s in-state rival seems destined for NCAA sanctions at the same time MSU has repeatedly nabbed Louisiana QB’s from a QB-needy LSU. Mississippi State doesn’t need to travel hundreds of miles to meet with recruits, and generally UT does. Heck, Nashville is practically just as close to Tuscaloosa and Oxford as it is to Knoxville.
You can’t go to the College Football Playoff if you’re a team from Mississippi:
I’ll use four examples of freak incidents, two each from two separate teams that point to why this is false. As the saying goes, footballs aren’t round and won’t always bounce in your favor. First, we start with Ole Miss. In 2014, they’re a gruesome leg injury to their star receiver away from an SEC Championship Game and probably a shot at the Playoff. In 2015, they’re a freak over-the-shoulder-no-look-directly-to-the-only-skill-player-in-ten-yards-happens-to-be-an-Arkansas-player-what-the-heck-just-happened-play from an SEC Championship Game and probably a shot at the Playoff. The next two examples come from Auburn, both in 2013, when shoulda-been-more-like-9-and-3 ended up turning into a National Championship berth on the backs of The Prayer at Jordan-Hare and the Kick Six. A team from Mississippi has already been on the cusp if not for two freak incidents, and a team symbolic of MSU’s perceived ceiling has already broken through based on two freak incidents.
Not to mention, Dan Mullen is already the second longest tenured coach in the SEC, and as other teams are forced to go through rebuilding years he should be able to take advantage. We used to say Mississippi State was a tough place to win because of the SEC West gauntlet, but slowly power has faded. We’re still waiting to see if Ed Oregon can improve from his days as OM head coach, Kevin Sumlin and Gus Malzahn are practically 8-4 machines every other year, and Arkansas is wandering in the wilderness somewhere. The ceiling for Mississippi State has only consistently been Alabama for the past 10 years, which, wait a minute, HAS BEEN TENNESSEE’S CEILING TOO. Tennessee actually has a longer losing streak versus Alabama than Mississippi State.
TENNESSEE HAS A LONGER LOSING STREAK TO ALABAMA THAN MISSISSIPPI STATE.
UGHHHHHHHHH... anyway, let’s carry on.
The University of Tennessee has been more successful historically than Mississippi State:
You know who else has more championships than Mississippi State? Pitt. The University of Pittsburgh has twice as many championships as Tennessee too. Army kicked some butt back in the day, but no one’s calling for Dan to go there! Recent history is the only thing that matters. A lot of us may remember UT’s BCS trophy from 1998, but graduating high school seniors weren’t even born yet. In fact, high school seniors graduating this year went from their 1st grade year to their junior year of high school before seeing Tennessee ranked in the top 10 again. Let me remind you that you aren’t recruiting 30 year olds (if you are, let me send you my tape from intramural flag football tho), so using the ‘90s as a crutch is gonna wear thinner and thinner with time.
Knoxville is better than Starkville:
Here’s a baffler for ya: I grew up in a suburb of Nashville, and took campus visits to both UT and MSU before undergrad. And guess what?? I chose Starkville! Personally, I felt like Knoxville was pretty much if the Rust Belt and an old coal town had a lovechild and the old coal town smoked while Knoxville was in the womb. There are like, 10 better college towns in Tennessee than Knoxville in my opinion.
Okay, so it’s not that bad. But deciding which place is better is completely subjective! Tennessee doesn’t have an income tax! Mississippi has a lower cost of living! Knoxville is actually a decent sized city! Starkville offers the country, small town lifestyle! Knoxville has mountains! Starkville is more neighborly! Knoxville has a Chipotle!
Bottom line, you can’t decide what’s better. No one can definitively say that one job is better than another, because everything is pretty much subjective. Coach Mullen feels like Starkville is better. I did too, in 2009.
Ha, made it the entire way through the article without even bringing up how ugly orange is.
Also, please forget this article exists in 10 years when Tennessee is relevant again and don’t retweet it or repost it to whatever dystopian social media we’re all using by then. K thx!