Dan Mullen: That backed up the message you tell your team as a coach

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday March 01, 2017

Dan Mullen wasn’t a big fan of 5-7 teams getting into bowl games — until it involved his team.

Mississippi State finished a 5-7 regular season on a high note by beating Ole Miss (and enjoying the above cigar), but they were selected for an open bowl slot because of the team’s high APR. The Bulldogs didn’t play well in the St. Petersburg Bowl, but beat Miami (OH) 17-16 thanks to a blocked field goal.

Getting additional bowl practices on the field helped the program going into 2017, but Mullen says it also helped emphasize his message off it.

“You get those extra practices. We didn’t have a lot with an earlier game, but just a couple of practices allow young players to transition from redshirting or scout team to kick off the next season and transition for spring and the offseason, when you have a much bigger role,” Mullen said on The Paul Finebaum Show. “The opportunity to do that certainly helps.

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest proponent of allowing 5-7 teams to go to bowl games, but having it be academically based for the success your student-athletes have, that’s one of the most rewarding things you get to do as a coach. To back up the messages you have, to stand up in front of your team and say we’re going to a bowl game because of what you’ve done off the field, it was a very interesting lesson for our guys. They took advantage, and it’s certainly going to help us moving into spring practice and next season.”

Mullen received a new 4-year contract this week, with a raise to $4.5 million. It’s the maximum length allowed by state law. His name has been in the mix for other head coaching jobs, but he says a contract like this helps show stability.

“I think some people use it in recruiting. I haven’t been one to do that much, but it certainly helps when recruits can look online and know this is the guy I’m going to be playing for,” Mullen said. “There’s a lot more stability when you answer those questions for recruits.”

Coming off the bowl win and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s big freshman season, there are reasons for MSU fans to be excited. SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic even went out to say Mississippi State will beat Alabama next season. But as Cubelic later said and Mullen pointed out, there’s a lot of time between now and then.

Said Mullen: “The one thing with predictions, it’s great when you look at it, but it’s when all being equal, how everything stands, how it’s going to play out. There’s a long time before you play those games. Whether it’s injuries, player development, other things you can’t control have a lot to do with the outcome of the season. I’m excited. I like the attitude our team has right now. We’ve had a good offseason, have some guys coming back with experience, and new faces to inject some energy and talent.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.