ACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen
will be the new football coach at Mississippi State, moving from
the Southeastern Conference champions to one of the league's
perennial cellar dwellers.
Mullen arrived in Starkville on Wednesday afternoon and will be
introduced at a news conference Thursday morning.
"We feel like he's the right fit for our football program, and
we're looking forward to tomorrow and letting everyone meet him,"
Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said. "We think he
brings everything we were looking for in our football coach."
Mullen leaves Gainesville as the top-ranked Gators are preparing
to play for their second national title in three years.
"A lot of people get in this profession and when you have head
coaching opportunities, they're very rare," Urban Meyer said at
news conference in Hollywood, Fla. "Head coaching opportunities in
the Southeastern Conference at a young age is a great honor. So
(Tim Tebow) had the same exact reaction that I did: Doggone it, but
we wish you well."
The 36-year-old has been an assistant coach for 14 years and
spent the last eight with Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and
Florida. He'll get to see what it's like facing Meyer and the
powerful Gators when the teams face off Oct. 24.
Florida won the SEC with a dominant offense and will play No. 2
Oklahoma for the BCS national championship next month. Meyer told
reporters he was not sure if Mullen would be staying through the
"It's all too fresh," Meyer said. "The most important thing
is whatever gives the University of Florida and our players an
opportunity to be successful on that night and I have not had a
chance to evaluate that yet."
Mullen replaces coach Sylvester Croom, who resigned last month
after going 21-38 in five seasons as the SEC's first black football
coach. Since 2001, the Bulldogs have had only one winning season.
Meyer told reporters after the SEC championship game that Mullen
was in contact with Byrne about the job.
The hiring was first reported by the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson
and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.
Byrne interviewed other candidates for the job. Chris Peterson
of Boise State and Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley both denied
interest in the job and Byrne also appears to have talked with
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
Croom left the program Nov. 29 after the Bulldogs suffered a
humiliating 45-0 loss to archrival Mississippi. He said in a recent
television interview that he was prepared to make changes to his
coaching staff in order to please fans, boosters and Byrne, but
that Byrne wanted to head in a new direction.
While Croom was credited with improving the overall talent at
Mississippi State despite NCAA sanctions he inherited, the former
NFL assistant coach and All-American center at Alabama could never
get his complicated and conservative run-first version of the West
Coast offense into gear.
The Bulldogs never cracked the top 100 under Croom and finished
113th out of 119 Bowl Subdivision teams with 274.9 yards per game
of total offense and 115th in scoring with 15.3 points per game
Byrne said he was looking for a coach who could jazz up that
woeful offense and got him. Mullen led the Gators to a team record
for points in a season this year and has Tebow in the running for a
second Heisman Trophy.
"They are going to get coach who likes to work, who will do a
great job," Tebow said. "They'll have success because of the way
Mullen also helped develop quarterback Alex Smith into a No. 1
overall pick in the NFL draft as quarterbacks coach at Utah.
The Gators led the nation in scoring last year and are third
this season with 45.5 points per game. Mullen directs the nation's
No. 18 offense (442.4 yards per game) and No. 11 rushing offense
The Gators run a spread option offense, the kind of attack that
would match the skills of incoming quarterback Tyler Russell of
Meridian, the Bulldogs' top recruit who has left his nonbinding
oral commitment to Mississippi State in place despite Croom's
Mullen is expected to begin recruiting immediately in an attempt
to hold together the promising class Croom put together before
Mississippi State's new coach spent two seasons apiece as wide
receivers coach at Wagner and Columbia from 1994-97 after
graduating from Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., where he
played tight end.
He then spent three seasons as a graduate assistant at Syracuse
and Notre Dame, where he met Meyer and later followed him to
"He's a great coach," Meyer said. "I made a comment (when)
someone wrote an article about us and I said, 'Boy, his resume is
pretty good,"' Meyer said. "When you work with a guy, you don't
realize it. He's been with me as a graduate assistant at Notre
Dame, we went together to Bowling Green, developed Josh Harris,
went from there to Alex Smith at Utah, and then came here and Chris
Leak and Tim. So the resume is pretty strong and I wish him all the