Mullen: "Everybody Is Pretty Happy" With Deal

It was scheduled weeks ago as a normal post-practice talk. But thanks to morning developments, Thursday's press conference centered not on Mississippi State's upcoming Gator Bowl game. It was about the contract extension and upgrade Coach Dan Mullen has earned, a four-year deal worth $10.6 million as announced by athletic director Scott Stricklin.

"We're excited for the work Dan has done with us and our goal is to build a program that can win consistently and have success and compete for championships," Stricklin told the media following the Bulldog practice on the University of North Florida campus. "This is a big commitment for us to make sure we have the people in place to do that."

Foremost among those being Mullen, of course. The head coach and boss came to a formal ‘letter of agreement' this morning, the biggest step in a process that has kept Mississippi State fans on edge since the first wave of college football firings began. But long before such things happened elsewhere Stricklin and University president Dr. Mark Keenum had been working up a revised contract for the second-year coach.

Now Mullen jumps from an official $1.5 million salary for 2010-11 to $2.65 million. The four year period is the maximum allowed for a state employee.

Following are Mullen's comments about the contract as well as how it fits into his—and his bosses'—larger goals for Mississippi State's football future.

Q: How does it feel to get a big raise today?

"I know we're very happy, my wife and I, to be staying here and hopefully for a long time to come. I'm really excited with the direction the program is going, with the leadership of Scott within the athletic department and with Dr. Keenum; and the vision they have and the vision I have. I know everybody is on the same page, we see a great future at Mississippi State Do some great things. And hopefully we get that done in the short term and in the long term."

Q: When did you sign the letter of agreement?

"We agreed on it this morning, yeah, we got everything agreed upon. And actually we agreed upon it a couple of days ago. There's still a lot of thees, thys, and words that I think that need to be put down on paper! But everything has been agreed upon."

Q: How much have you and Scott talked about facilities?

"A lot. We've been in it for quite a while. We've got a lot of plans starting to be laid out and we're hoping within the next year we're starting a new facility."

Q: Has that been a big thing for you?

"Yeah, and a big thing for Scott as well. just the vision of where we want to go as a program. We want to be ‘the' place, the destination school for young men, and not just in the state of Mississippi in the surrounding areas that they know (we) have big-time facilities, a big-time stadium, great crowd support, and a championship football team that they can come play for."

Q: Are you relieved to get this done before the bowl game?

"There's no doubt we were getting it out of the way a while ago. It was just kind of hammer out a couple of little details at the end. And now we've got the IHL approval and the lawyers write up something!"

Q: Was it a pretty easy contract to hammer out?

"Oh yeah. It feels good. I want to be at Mississippi State, and Mississippi State wants me. So everybody is pretty happy!"

Q: Is it different doing this with Scott than with Greg Byrne?

"Scott was very involved in the process of hiring me, and I was very pleased when he got named the athletic director because he was so involved and he had the same vision of where I saw the program going when I took over. I know he had a lot of the same beliefs of where we could take Mississippi State too. Scott does a great job, but I don't think it was much different."

Q: Now that you are taken care of are assistant coaches next?

"Yeah, we're working on that, our assistant coaches are going to get raises this year. We're going to work on some of those things. They've done a great job, I think we have a tremendous staff. I know it was tough losing Coach Hud (Mark Hudspeth) but I want to make sure this is a place when assistant coaches come they know they're going to have the opportunity to take over their own program, get the opportunity to become a head football coach. If assistant coaches are leaving to become head coaches, we're obviously doing a great job of developing."

Q: Have you had a raise this significant at any time?

"I got a pretty good raise when I came here! It was more than double, that's for sure!"

Q: Scott said facilities plans were not included in the contract, but was it understood as part of the agreement?

"Scott wants to go there, the president wants to go there, I want to go there. So I think it's something that we're on the same page. I think we're going to be able to get that done here in the very near future."

Q: How quickly will you replace Hudspeth?

"I want to concentrate on the bowl game, Angelo Mirando has done a fabulous job getting the wide receivers prepared. So it wasn't something that was a panic for us to get done, so my number-one focus was on the game. And we'll worry about that afterwards. After the game that will be one of the things right near the top of things to start working towards."

Q: Is Megan out shopping right now?

"She went shopping this morning…"

Q: Before or after you came to the agreement?

"No, before! She's down at the outlet mall at St. Aug. She called me and said there were some great sales at the outlet mall today!"

Q: Can you talk about your discussions with Scott about other jobs?

"No, we just had an open relationship, it's great to have someone you can work with. But there's no secrets around here, I kept him informed. I never had really any interest in leaving here this year, and now with this deal I certainly have no interest in leaving anytime in the future!"

"So I'm very happy here, just the direction in two years here I think you see we have the ability to get great players from the state of Mississippi to come play for us, to come represent their state school. We have an administration that has a great vision of where the program is going. And I've got great young men on my team, I think we're a young team that can be pretty good in years to come."

Q: Do you think this helps the image of Mississippi State, is this one of the steps you talk about?

"It is. We need to build Mississippi State into a championship caliber program. Not just a one-year team, a program that is consistently winning, consistently getting to New Years Day bowl games, has the opportunity to compete for SEC West championships year-in and year-out to get ourselves to Atlanta. That's the vision I have, I know that's the vision that Scott has, its the vision that Dr. Keenum has. And I think everybody is coming forth and showing that with what they're doing to keep me here, what we'll try to get for our assistants, what we're doing facility wise. We're accelerating into the future."

Q: Have you told your team about the contract extension?

"Nah, I'll let you guys handle all that! They're worried about the game."

Q: Have you told any recruits?

"No, I haven't had the opportunity to tell recruits. What I told the team, I get all the texts from the team when something happens. And I told them all along unfortunately for them stuck, I'm not going anywhere! So we'll be doing matt drills and getting ready this off-season and now it's going to be even harder than last year! And I've told that to all our recruits, our intensions and our vision of the future here."

Q: You don't make a big deal of salary, but how do you feel about having one of the highest state employee salaries?

"It's a lot of pressure, I better make sure I make the state proud!"

"It's one of those things. Like I've always said, our players and our program don't just play for the name on the back of the jersey, you play for the name on the front. We play for Mississippi State and we play for the state of Mississippi. So hopefully I give the state a lot to be proud about, not just this Saturday but in years to come."

Q: In USA Today your salary would be 6th in the SEC and higher than what you call that school up north?

"I like anything we do that makes us better than the school up north! I never looked at it that way but as long as we're ahead of the school up north I'm happy!"

Q: Are you sure Megan is still just at the outlet mall after hearing of this raise?

"Hey, you know Megan, she'll still be at the outlet mall!"

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