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Posts Tagged ‘greg byrne’

Dan “The Man” Mullen Hired As MSU Head Football Coach

Posted by Kevin on December 14, 2008

After a two-week coaching search process that should earn Greg Byrne an award from the CIA on keeping things private, Dan Mullen was introduced this week as Mississippi State’s 32nd head football coach.  Mullen’s name popped up on the rumor mill from time to time, but never really garnered as much steam as names like Chris Peterson from Boise State or Kevin Wilson from Oklahoma.  With the way Byrne conducted his search in a shroud of privacy, every name Bulldog fans threw out there was just speculation.  In the end, Byrne hired the man that he knew he wanted within minutes of talking to him.

Mullen, 36, has 15 years of collegiate coaching experience, all on offense.  His first major collegiate coaching job came in 1998 where he served as an offensive graduate assistant on Syracuse’s Big East conference championship and Orange Bowl team.  In 1999, Mullen moved to Notre Dame to work for Bob Davie on the Irish’s squad that played in the Fiesta Bowl.  While at Notre Dame, Mullen worked alongside another young coach named Urban Meyer.  In 2001 Mullen followed Meyer to Bowling Green where he served as quarterbacks coach.  In 2002, Bowling Green quarterback Josh Harris threw for 2,452 yard, rushed for 737 yards and finished the season as the nation’s 3rd leading scorer.

Meyer and Mullen moved to Utah in 2003 where Mullen served as quarterbacks coach.  While at Utah, Mullen developed quarterback Alex Smith into the eventual #1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.  Under Mullen’s tutelege, Smith also earned the Sporting News Player of the Year award, was Utah’s first finalist for the Heisman Trophy, was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp National Player of the Year awards, and lead the Utes to a 12-0 record and Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.  The 2004 Utes finished the season with the 3rd highest scoring offense in the nation.

The Meyer/Mullen tandem moved to Florida in 2005 where Mullen has served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  In 2005, Chad Jackson was a Biletnikoff award semifinalist for receivers while setting a Florida single-season record for receptions in a season.  In 2006, the Gators won the BCS Championship while setting more school, conference, and national offensive records.  In 2007, he coached Tim Tebow as the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.  Tebow also won the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, and 78th Sullivan awards.  The Gators offense was the only team in the country to rush and pass for at least one touchdown in every game.

So… everywhere Mullen has been they’ve won.  He has learned from one of the best collegiate defensive minds in Bob Davie, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches ever in Paul Pasqualoni, and an offensive genius in Meyer.

When Byrne started the coaching search, he listed the qualities he wanted in a coach.  He wanted someone young and aggressive, full of energy and a tireless work ethic, someone with a passion for recruiting and someone who was on their way up in the coaching world; not someone who had already peaked.  While he didn’t say it publicly, Byrne wanted someone to get Bulldog fans instantly excited although it will be another eight months before he coaches his first game for MSU.

I was born and raised an MSU Bulldog.  I bleed maroon.  I grew up watching my beloved Dogs win maybe 5 games a year in a good year with the occasional surprise bowl team.  I loved them during the infamous Tech-and-10 (1 win, 10 losses for the uninformed) and I loved them during Jackie Sherrill‘s best years where we had the 1998 eventual national champs Tennessee on the ropes in the SEC title game.  The only time I can recall just not caring what happened in Starkville on football Saturdays have been the last couple of years under Sylvester Croom.  I didn’t like the hire when they got him but I supported my team, but week after week he proved just how unprepared he was to be a head coach.  After the 3-2 Auburn debacle this season, I vowed to never attend another Mississippi State home game until Croom was gone.  Thankfully, Byrne took care of that.

Mullen has said all the right things in his fan meet-and-greets and press conferences.  He’s talked about the spread offense and how it will be tooled to fit the players he has to work with; not forcing the offense on a bunch of players who can’t run it (think Croom’s garbage west coast offense).  He’s talked about putting together a staff full of more young and energetic coaches who have a passion for recruiting and keeping Mississippi’s best athetes not only in state but in Starkville.  While I’m sure he will need to do some recruiting out of state, there is no doubt that there is superior talent in our high schools.  Talent enough to compete for conference championships.

I cannot wait for next fall when Mullen’s first squad takes the field.  Just the thought of an offense that will score some points is enough to get me back to God’s country.


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Who’s It Going To Be?

Posted by Kevin on December 3, 2008

As a rabid Mississippi State fan, I can’t stop refreshing Kyle Veazey‘s blog and the Locker Room forum at BulldawgJunction, and constantly checking my phone for updates on Kyle’s Twitter page.  I know it’s not likely that Greg Byrne will have our new coach hired for a few more weeks, but keeping up with the latest rumors and speculation is a sick addiction that I cannot fight.

But keeping up with the rumor mill also leads to a lot of disappointment and wondering why hot coaches at non-BCS schools aren’t beating down our door wanting to take their shot in the mighty SEC.  I know Mississippi State isn’t exactly the Florida Gators but we’re an SEC school and a coach can win here.

Many of the hottest young coaches in the country are making statements that they are not interested in coaching my beloved Bulldogs.  Chris Peterson at Boise State; Brian Kelly at Cincinnati; Gary Patterson at TCU.  All three claim to be more than happy with their current positions, and why shouldn’t they be?  None of them coach in the cut-throat SEC but have been wildly successful and are due to be paid SEC-like salaries.  Now, that’s not to say that their public comments aren’t entirely true, that there may really be interest, but aside from anything Nick Saban says, I tend to believe it when a coach publicly states he has no interest in another job.

Which brings us back to the speculation and rumor mill about who may actually want the MSU job.  One name in particular that surfaced early on and hasn’t let up is Derek Dooley from Louisiana Tech.  Dooley carries the rare dual role of head football coach and athletic director and has done a lot of good for LA Tech in his short time at the school.  He may be the guy, who knows, but I want Byrne to hire a proven winner.  I do not want someone who has had two decent years at a WAC school jumping head first into the SEC.

Other names that keep popping up are Ellis Johnson, our former defensive coordinator under Croom who is now on staff under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina; Tommy Bowden, who was ousted at Clemson for not meeting their crazy Alabama-like expectations; Skip Holtz, the head coach at East Carolina and son of hall of famer coach Lou Holtz; Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator at Florida; Jeff Bower, former head coach at USM; Turner Gill, former Nebraska all-american and current head coach at Buffalo; Phillip Fulmer, the recently fired head coach at Tennessee; and perhaps the most intriguing name, Tommy Tuberville who many speculate may be let go at Auburn.

Among those names I keep seeing, the only two that I care for are Charlie Strong and Tommy Tuberville.  I wanted State to look at Strong when they hired Croom.  He’s young, energetic, experienced, and most importantly he coaches in the SEC.  Strong was the first black coordinator in the SEC when South Carolina hired him in 1999 as defensive coordinator.  Florida hired Strong as their defensive coordinator prior to the 2003 season.  When Ron Zook left Florida for Illinois with one game remaining in the 2004 season Strong served as the team’s interim head coach for the Peach Bowl loss to the Miami Hurricanes.  Strong is well known for his smothering defenses and well-mannered personality and deserves an opportunity at being head coach…. somewhere.  Maybe at State?  I don’t know, but I hope Byrne takes a look at him.

Many fans around the SEC hate Tuberville.  I think he’s great and would love to have him in Starkville.  Tubby cut his teeth as a defensive coach and defensive coordinator at Miami where he coached on a national championship team.  He was also defensive coordinator for Texas A&M in 1994 for a team that went 10-1.  Tuberville got his first head coaching job at Ole Miss in 1995 before moving to Auburn in 1999 where he as guided the Tigers to eight bowl games in ten years, including four conference division titles and one SEC conference title.

A lot of State fans want Byrne to make a hire than will generate a “big splash” in the conference.  They want a big name that will generate a lot of excitement.  They want someone who will run a wide open offense that will blow up the scoreboard.  I don’t care about all that.  What I want is simple.  I want a coach that will win more ballgames than he loses; a coach that will win us bowl games and have us in contention for conference titles.  I don’t care if that means we get a coach with the personality of a wet mop, or a coach that runs the most boring offense in history.  If it wins ball games, I want it. 

Ask Alabama fans how they feel about Gene Stallings.  That man has zero personality and had an offense that would put you to sleep watching it, but all he did was win five bowl games, four division titles, one conference title, and a national championship in just seven years at the helm.  Do you think they cared how boring his teams were while they were winning all those games?  I don’t think so either

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It’s Finally Over… Croom Resigns

Posted by Kevin on November 29, 2008

Sylvester Croom resigned this morning, less than 24 hours after being mystified about the 45-0 ass kicking by Ole Miss.  But the score of that game had nothing to do with the resignation.  It was just the latest reminder to Mississippi State fans that our program is in arguably as bad of shape as it was when Croom was hired five years ago.

Many will say that Croom left the program in better shape than he found it.  I think that’s debatable.  What isn’t debatable are these statistics during his tenture at the helm:

  • 21-38 overall record
  • 10-30 conference record
  • embarassing losses to Houston, Tulane, Maine, and Louisiana Tech
  • total offensive rankings: (107th, 113th, 103rd, 113th, 105th)
  • scoring offensive rankings: (114th, 113th, 97th, 96th, 113th)
  • net punting rankings: (34th, 99th, 107th, 98th, 108th)
  • turnover margin rankings: 66th, 48th, 87th, 55th, 80th)

Not once in five years could Croom’s garbage West Coast Offense crack even the top 100 total offenses in the nation.

Every season was the same thing from Croom.  During summer and fall camps, Croom would question the leadership, effort, and identity of his teams.  Then right before the opening game he all of a sudden knew who his team leaders were, praised the team’s work ethic and effort in practice, and knew what kind of team he had.  Then, remarkably, after each loss we all of a sudden had leadership, effort, and team identity issues again.  Sure enough, right before the next game all of that would be resolvoed.  Rinse, repeat.

The fact is, the only leadership problem the team had started with the coaching staff.  Don’t blame the players for your faults as a coach, coaching staff, and game plan.  The players tried, but they were executing a system of failure, second guessing, and inability to adjust.

I worried that Croom would be retained at least another year because we would not have the resources to buyout his contract, and/or that AD Greg Byrne would not have the balls to be the man to fire the first black head football coach in the SEC.  Yet, after meeting with Byrne this morning, Croom offered his resignation and Byrne accepted.

I’m finally excited about Mississippi State football again and we’re not even playing.  This football season has been much like Ron Polk‘s last season as our baseball coach.  We were so awful that I just stopped caring.  I couldn’t get upset anymore about the program and I couldn’t get excited about any wins.  I just wanted the season to be over.  Now with this morning’s news I’m anxious to see who Byrne will go after.

I think Byrne pretty much has to bring in someone who can put an offense on the field that will score points.  No more of this three yards and a cloud of dust nonsense.  I don’t necessarily want to see a no-huddle or spread offense, but I do want to see an offense that attacks.  Hell, I want to see an entire team that attacks.  Maybe Byrne should take John Cohen with him to talk to potential new coaches…

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Dear Coach Polk: You Know We Love You, But…

Posted by Kevin on June 9, 2008

What in bloody hell are you thinking?!  I’ll get back to that.

Exactly 18 years to the day after closing out his Mississippi State baseball career in Omaha, John Cohen returned home to replace the retired Ron Polk as the Bulldogs’ head baseball coach.

Ron Polk announced his retirement in March of this season and strongly advocated for incoming athletic director Greg Byrne to hire longtime assistant Tommy Raffo to take over the program.  Raffo played with Cohen in the 90’s and has been an assistant in Starkville for the last 14 years.  He no doubt knows the program, the families, the administration, the fan base, the camps, etc…  The question about Raffo has never been his knowledge of the program.  It’s always been a matter of should he be tapped as the man to take over one of the nation’s elite baseball programs.

Byrne has said all along that he would consider Raffo for the job, but he also made it clear his charge was to find the best candidate for the job and that meant searching not only at home but nationally.  In the end, Byrne talked to some six different candidates, four of whom have head coaching experience at programs that regularly compete in the post-season.  I don’t know if Raffo would have done a good job as the head man or not, but I would rather hire someone who has already been successful as a head coach.  Getting someone from the State family would just be gravy.

I think Byrne absolutely got it right with Cohen.

  • He played in three regionals and a College World Series at State
  • He was a first-team All-SEC player his senior year
  • He ranks in the top 10 in several career records at State
  • He was an assistant at Missouri from 1992-97.  After just three years as a straight-out-of-college assistant coach at Missouri, Cohen was promoted as the Tigers hitting coach and recruiting coordinator.  In ’96, the Tigers won the Big Eight championship and played in an NCAA regional for the first time in 16 years.  That year the Tigers broke nine offensive records and 17 overall in Cohen’s six years on the staff.
  • He was the head coach at baseball factory Northwestern State in Louisiana for four seasons.  In that span, Cohen lead the Demons to two Southland Conference titles and was named conference coach of the year twice.  Under Cohen’s watch, the Demons set 18 team and individual offensive records and 10 pitching records.
  • As proof that he does not overlook the importance of academics, Cohen’s Northwestern State teams averaged 18 student-athletes per semester with GPA’s of 3.0 or better.
  • In his two years at Florida as the Gators’ hitting instructor, Cohen’s offenses terrorized opposing pitching staffs.  In 2002, his offense lea the nation in hits and was second nationally in batting average, runs scored, and home runs.  That year, Florida led the SEC in nine offensive categories and set or tied 41 (20 team, 21 individual) school offensive records.
  • In 2003, Cohen’s offense produced numbers similar to the 2002 squad.
  • He’s coached four league batting champions.
  • In his five seasons as the head coach at Kentucky, Cohen transformed a conference doormat into a contender for post-season play.  His Kentucky teams posted two 44-win seasons, played in two regionals, and won a conference championship.  In the 100+ years of Kentucky baseball before Cohen’s arrival, the Wildcats had never won a conference championship and had only been to regionals three times.
  • Cohen was named the 2006 SEC Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year by the College Baseball Foundation and
  • His 2006 Wildcats scored a school-record 500 runs.  His 2007 squad had a .320 batting average.
  • In reviving Kentucky baseball, Cohen produced the SEC’s first ever worst-to-first turnaround in 2006.
  • Cohen’s 2008 squad produced school records in fielding percentage (.974), putouts (1687), at bats (2157), runs scored (510), doubles (152), RBI (461), sacrifce bunts (75), sacrifice flies (38), and innings pitched (563).
  • The list just keeps going…

If you want to contrast that with Raffo’s resume:

  • Raffo played in the regionals all four years at State and played in a College World Series.
  • He was a first-team All-American and All-SEC player.
  • As State’s hitting instructor, the Bulldogs have hit .300 or better 10 of the last 12 years, including a school record .335 in 1999.
  • He ranks in the top-10 of most school offensive records.
  • State has played in regionals 11 of the 14 years Raffo has been on the coaching staff, and has played in three College World Series.
  • In 2006, Raffo’s coaching help Thomas Berkery and MSU career hits leader Jeffrey Rea finish 1-2 in batting average in the SEC.  In 2007, Brandon Turner was second in the conference.

That is the extent of Raffo’s coaching resume.    Oh yeah…. Raffo has all that program experience at State, too, something that isn’t likely to be listed in your bio.  But look at the results.  Everywhere Cohen has been, tremendous success has followed.  Who would you have hired if you were Greg Byrne?

I tuned into the press conference introducing Cohen and was impressed with what the man had to say.  By the way, you can view the archived video or read the transcript here.  He paid homage to the late Paul “Bear” Bryant and took his hat off indoors, something that will no doubt be passed down to his players.  It’s a simple gesture, I know, but the little things add up.

In describing his style of baseball and what to expect from his teams, Cohen let it be known that his teams would play an aggressive, attacking style of baseball that will constantly pressure the defense to either make the plays or make mistakes.  His players will play hard every single play.  There will be no down-to-the-minute scripted practices.  If it takes a whole practice to get something worked out, then so be it.  If it only takes a few minutes, that’s great.  The team will work until the goals are achieved.  He followed that up by saying that if he has players that are not interested in that kind of work or focus, they won’t like having him for a coach.

When asked about his expectations, he made the statement that anything short of Omaha is a disappointment.  He then took it a step further and said that just making it to Omaha is not enough.  State has been to many regionals and has been to Omaha a number of times.  There’s only one thing left to do: win it all.  That is his expectation.  Mighty strong statement there.

But Cohen’s wife Nelle may have said it best of all.  When she was telling her sister that John was going to take the job at Mississippi State her sister asked her why.  Nelle’s response was an analogy to music.  She said you know how every musician wants to play Carnegie Hall?  Well, Mississippi State is the Carnegie Hall of college baseball.

Now to Coach Polk….

It’s admirable to back a longtime assistant and advocate for him to get the job, but what Polk has done in the wake of Cohen being hired is nothing but crybaby bullshit.

Unfortunately, our new athletic director slapped me in face and punched me in the stomach. He also slapped Tommy Raffo in the face and punched him in the stomach after 15 years of loyalty to Mississippi State. He did the same to our players, their parents and signees. I think I have more knowledge about the game than young Mr. Byrne.

I want my name taken off the stadium and in the concourse until Greg Byrne is fired. And if they don’t do it, I will. And as soon as I get back to Starkville, I’m going to make sure the MSU Foundation is taken out of my will. And that’s a lot of money. I’m going to ask former players who give to quit. If you’re asking if I’m mad, then yes. I’m mad.

I was up front with John Cohen, Pat Casey, Steve Smith all along. If Joe Torre got the job, I wouldn’t support him. I know more about Mississippi State baseball than anyone. Greg Byrne doesn’t know anything. Well, he’s about to find out what my name means.

I love John, he’s a former player, but he knew how I felt. And when he walks into his new office, there will only be a desk and chair. No papers on the players or anything. I don’t like what’s done, but I guess he really wanted this job very bad. Good luck.

Is this a good job? I don’t know. Kentucky has the lottery and we don’t. But I’ll tell you one thing, Greg Byrne may be the athletic director, but I’m the athletic director for baseball. I’ve been there for 31 years, and no one is more loyal than me.

Do you think Vince Dooley is glad he listened to me. Look what Dave Perno has done with Georgia and he’s close to getting them back to the world series. But with this hire, Greg Byrne has thrown 15 years away of Tommy’s coaching life and the four years he has played here. Is he the best candidate, I don’t know. I say give him four years. If he doesn’t get the job done, then fire him. But no, Greg Byrne wanted to make a splash. But he’s not a Mississippi State guy, and doesn’t understand what MSU baseball is all about. His honeymoon is over. He blew it.

Wow.  Just… wow.

Coach Polk, you may know more about baseball than Byrne, but you’re being a child about this.  Where should we begin?
The amount of baseball knowledge you have does not equate to the amount of authority you have in hiring someone to replace yourself.  That’s not your job.  That is the athletic director’s job.  You were the head baseball coach, not the athletic director.

Demanding to have your name taken off of the building is probably the stupidest thing you’ve said.  First, your name was put there to honor the years of service and success you had at Mississippi State.  It was not your decision to put your name on the stadium, nor will it be your decision to take it off.  If your demand is granted and your name removed, can you imagine what you would have to do to get it put back up again?  Think about that, coach.

So, Greg Byrne is about to find out what your name means, huh?  I assure you Byrne knows more about you than you’ll ever know, but that does not mean you get to dictate to your boss who he hires to replace you.  He took your recommendation and interviewed Raffo along with the other candidates.  Raffo wasn’t the man for the job.

You were the athletic director for baseball?  Really?  Apparently nobody knew that because it wasn’t your job title.  And if nobody has been more loyal to you, why did you take your ball and go home whining the first time you retired only to go to another school?  That wasn’t loyalty, coach.

You talked to John Cohen a number of times and knew he wanted the job.  You told him you loved him but…. but… you wouldn’t support anyone other than Tommy Raffo.  For someone who wants to preach about loyalty, do you not see the irony here, coach?  You’re throwing loyalty under the bus when you disrespect Cohen by saying that.  One of your former players at that.

You could have gone out on top, coach.  Think about it.  You’re freakin’ Ron Polk.  You’re a living legend and a God around Starkville.  Your name is on the baseball stadium.  You’re one of the winningest coaches in NCAA baseball history.  You could be strolling around campus laughing it up in retirement and would probably have the best seats in the stadium for life.  Kids and adult-kids would still want an autograph and a picture with you.

But you’re in danger of throwing all of that away with your childish temper tantrums and threats.  Do what’s right.  Apologize for acting like a complete jackass.  Support and embrace John Cohen as one of your former players coming home to take MSU baseball to the next level.  And support Tommy Raffo as he searches for his next stop in his coaching career.

It’s not too late.

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