By JOEL COLEMAN
Like presents on Christmas morning, coaching rumors swirling around Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen have become a yearly December tradition. In his eight years guiding the Bulldogs, Mullen has at some point been either reported or rumored to be a candidate to take head coaching jobs at Miami, Georgia, Penn State and others.
The trend has continued this month. This past week, Oregon announced the hire of South Florida’s Willie Taggart as its head football coach. ESPN reported Mullen was the other finalist for the job.
There was a time not long ago when such a report getting out might have bothered Mullen. After Friday’s first practice for MSU’s upcoming appearance in the St. Petersburg Bowl though, Mullen said those days are gone.
“It’s really nothing now,” Mullen said of dealing with all the rumors. “I guess at first, it was flattering. Then it got annoying. I bet early on, people thought, ‘I wonder if he’s still going to be there?’ Then in the middle, you’re like, ‘He’s definitely not going to be there.’ Now, I think you all just assume I’m still going to be here. For some people that’s probably a good thing. For others, they’re like, ‘Man, this guy is still here.’ Some are like, ‘Great!’ Some are like, ‘I thought this was the year we were getting rid of him.’
“You know what, it is what it is. I love being here.”
Mullen has plenty of reasons to enjoy being in Starkville. Since coming to MSU in December of 2008, he has won 60 ballgames. Only two coaches in program history have ever won more. He has led the Bulldogs to the top of the national polls and reached a bowl game for what is now seven-straight years.
Aside from the winning, MSU has blossomed off the field in Mullen’s tenure. Davis Wade Stadium has expanded. The Bulldogs now enjoy being based out of the impressive Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.
For Mullen, there is plenty to like about being in maroon and white.
“We’ve built this program,” Mullen said. “We’ve gotten the opportunity to build a program the way you want to build it, whether it be facilities, with the personnel or with the people that you have.”
Then, there’s another factor for Mullen. His son, Canon, and daughter, Breelyn, have both lived in Starkville for their entire lives. Uprooting them would be difficult Mullen says.
“My kids were born here,” Mullen said. “This is all they know. My son, I don’t know what he’d do. He loves it here.”
“It’s just all they know. It’s what the family knows. We love living here.”
Mississippi State is currently working on a contract extension to keep Mullen with the Bulldogs. If he continues to win though, even that likely won’t deter other schools from pursuing Mullen for future openings.
Perhaps one day, Mullen will accept an opportunity elsewhere that he simply can’t pass up. Or maybe he remains with MSU for the long haul.
Whatever happens, Mullen will tell anyone who’ll listen that he’s incredibly happy with the roots he has grown in Oktibbeha County and his small, college town life.
“I’ll be honest,” Mullen said. “I’ve been out recruiting this week and you sit in traffic some places. I’ve leaned I’ve really gotten accustomed to some Mississippi living.”