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Posts Tagged ‘jackie sherrill’

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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Clean Sweep!

Posted by Kevin on December 5, 2007

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom has swept the two most recognized Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year honors, it was announced today.Croom, who led the Bulldogs to a 7-5 record and their first bowl berth since 2000, was named coach of the year by his peers and by the Associated Press.

State won seven of its last 11 games after a 45-0 loss to then-No. 2 LSU in the season-opener. High-profile wins against Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky followed, as did a come-from-behind win over Ole Miss in the Nov. 23 Egg Bowl that clinched the team’s first bowl berth since 2000.

MSU will face Central Florida (10-3) in the Dec. 29 AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

“It is a great honor and a tremendous blessing to be named SEC coach of the year by my peers,” Croom said in a statement released by MSU. “To even be considered for such an award by the coaches in this conference is quite special.

“I would like to thank my coaching staff, our players, the MSU administration, and the fans for their support over the past four years, and particularly this season. I especially want to thank the fans for the home field advantage they have created. They had a tremendous affect on the outcome of the games.

“Special praise and gratitude also has to go to our seniors, and our entire football team, for the character and determination they showed this season. But I also must remind them that the job is not yet finished.”

Croom is the first State coach to be honored as the AP SEC Coach of the Year since Charley Shira in 1970 and the first from State voted in by his peers since Wade Walker in 1957.

When Sylvester Croom was hired four years ago, State’s football program was in shambles. The talent level was poor, many of the attitudes even worse. The NCAA was handing down sanctions for deeds done under Jackie Sherrill‘s watch. We had already suffered through three straight losing seasons and had absolutely no hope of ever coming out of the funk.

Mississippi State broke the color barrier by hiring Croom as the first minority head football coach in the SEC (he’s still the only one). Croom carried with him an impressive resume as an assistant coach, but he had not coached at the college level in more than 17 years and had zero head coaching experience. However, what Croom did have was character. Lots of character. The man was well groomed by his parents and his coaching mentors. And he had a plan for turning around State’s dreadful football program.

I doubt there are many State football fans that honestly gave him a chance to win. I know I sure didn’t. Croom wasn’t very concerned about recruiting when he first arrived in Starkville. His first priority was to change the attitude of the team. He knew if he could weed out the bad attitudes and loser mentality, positive things would happen. How he even survived his first year is beyond me. But he did. He kicked players off the team, worked others so hard that they quit. In the end, what he was left with were players who bought into their coach. Players with good work ethic, good attitudes, and players who would not quit no matter what.

His first season was no better than the three seasons prior to his arrival as far as wins go. But the difference in the team could be seen. They were trying harder even though it didn’t show up in the win column.

Croom’s second season was worse in win totals, but you could still see there was a lot of fight in the team. But how long could they go on continuing to lose before the program caved in again?

Last year the Bulldogs again only won three games, but you could sense they were close to breaking through. Of their nine losses, four of them were one-possession games that State had a chance in. Winning was just beyond their grasp but it gave fans hope.

This year State finally was able to take advantage of an opportunistic defense and find ways to win seven ballgames. Had just a very few plays gone in our favor, State could have easily won nine ballgames.

Croom’s plan is working. He has stuck to his guns and is rebuilding the program the right way. He is recruiting players with good character and good work ethic. He says those types of players win ballgames. Winning ballgames makes more people want to play for you. Doing it the right way makes more parents want to send their sons to play under someone like Croom. Croom has definitely changed my mind. I suspect he has changed oh so many more who also doubted him.

Job well done, coach. We’re proud of you.

P.S. Croom has also been named a finalist for Liberty Mutual’s National Coach of the Year.

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I Know Why There Are So Few Minority Head Football Coaches!

Posted by Kevin on November 29, 2007

The short answer: because they weren’t the right man for the job.

The long answer: how much time do you have?

Sure, there is an overwhelming disparity in the skin color of head football coaches in the NCAA and NFL alike, but let’s not get all crazy and throw race around like the White Man is holding you down because of your skin color. That’s bullshit and you know it.

In case you haven’t heard the whining, there are only six minority head coaches among the 119 Division 1-A schools and six minority head coaches in the NFL. Why?

I’ll grant you the fact that minority coaches have been looked over at times when they should have at least been given chances to interview for jobs, but as unfair as that is, it is just as unreasonable to say that these same coaches should just be handed jobs they aren’t necessarily qualified for. Or sometimes the timing just isn’t right to give a minority with no head coaching experience a shot.

Texas A&M is a good example of this. The Aggies have a history of being a winning program. They have high expectations and want to compete for a conference title year in and year out in the very tough Big 12 Conference. Now, that’s not to say that a minority coach with no head coaching experience couldn’t come into College Station and win right away, but surely you can agree that the odds of that happening are slim. When R.C. Slocum was fired in 2002, A&M wanted someone with head coaching experience who could come in and get A&M back to winning right away. They hired Dennis Franchione and paid him an awful lot of money to do it. In five seasons, Franchione’s teams never finished better than 3rd in their conference division and only went to two bowl games (this year’s 7-5 team will be coached by an interim coach in their bowl game). Now A&M is once again faced with hiring a new coach to come in and clean up Franchione’s mess and get the program back to its winning ways. Their is unrest among the fanbase and the people with the fat wallets. After Franchione tanked on them, do you honestly expect that they’d now give the job to anyone without head coaching experience? They circled the wagons and looked within the A&M family to find someone who knows the school, who knows the tradition, who they believe has the ability to restore the program. Mike Sherman fits all of that. If that’s what they were looking for, then interviewing a minority coach for a position he knows he wouldn’t be hired for would be nothing more than a token interview. Do you really want that?

I find it unrealistic to expect some of these big name schools who have long histories of winning to hire someone without a proven winning track record. When you bitch and moan about minority coaches not being given the chance to interview at a school like A&M, please also consider the number of White Man assistants out there that far outnumber your minority assistants and would have also loved a shot to interview for the A&M job. Don’t you think they feel overlooked as well?

Now…. with all of that said, I do firmly believe there are minority coaches out there worthy of being given a shot at head coaching positions. I just think you have to be realistic about it. A problem of disparity like this does not get worked out overnight. It takes time. And it takes the willingness to start somewhere below the most elite jobs available.

Many people like to point out that Tyrone Willingham, one of your six minority head coaches in NCAA 1-A, was “unceremoniously dumped” by Notre Dame after three years. Unceremoniously dumped…. what, did you want them to throw him a party for failing to win at Notre Dame? Sure, he won 10 games his first season, but followed that with overachieving 5-7 and 6-5 records. At Notre Dame. The same Notre Dame that expects to play bowl games in January each and every season. The same Notre Dame that expects to contend for a national championship each and every year. The same Notre Dame that is so elitist and full of itself that they demand (and somehow get) special treatment for everything they do. They left the Collegiate Football Association and landed their very own TV deal with NBC to broadcast every single home game. They are also the only program, college or pro, to have all of their football games nationally broadcast via radio. They are also the only college program with their very own BCS clause. So, did you really expect Notre Dame to put up with losing? Let’s not forget Willingham is also still a head coach. Just not at precious Notre Dame.

Of the 14 head coaching positions that have come open in recent weeks in Division 1-A, three have already been filled. I’ve already gone over the A&M case. Ole Miss did interview minority coaches the last time they had a vacancy before hiring the recently fired Ed Orgeron. After being burned so badly by that hire, I don’t think you can fault them for jumping on the chance to hire Houston Nutt. I do not know anything about the Baylor hire. That leaves 11 head coaching slots still open. Of those 11, the jobs I can see realistically giving a shot to a minority coach with little or no head coaching experience are: Colorado State, Duke, Houston, Northern Illinois, SMU, Southern Miss, and Washington State. No way Arkansas, Georgia Tech or Nebraska go with an unproven coach which means you’re highly unlikely to see a minority at the helm. It’s just not going to happen. Now, of the other schools that are available, none are names that really jump out at you as elite coaching jobs but they are potential opportunities to get that elusive experience to allow a minority coach to move up at a later time.

So what is it going to take to get minority coaches a fair shot at more head coaching jobs? I think it all starts with the interview process. When a head coaching job comes open, fans, alumni, and boosters want it filled immediately. The longer a job stays open, the longer your entire program goes with no direction. Athletic directors and school presidents always have a list of criteria they want from their new head coach, and they almost always have a short list of candidates who they are interested in. I’m sure those lists rarely include minority coaches. I think we could go a long way toward having more minority head coaches by implementing a rule similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

The Rooney Rule was spearheaded by Pittsburgh Steelers owner, and the chairman of the league’s diversity committee, Dan Rooney. The rule requires that NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching job when it is available. Failing to comply results in a fine, such as the $200,000 fine levied against the Detroit Lions in 2003 for failing to interview a minority for their head coaching job.

There’s no reason why the NCAA could not adopt a similar rule as long as colleges and universities are not forced to hire a minority coach for the sake of keeping a quota or some such nonsense. Give these coaches face time with the guys that hire and fire coaches even if you’re already certain of who you want to hire. Even if you don’t hire them, you’re giving them opportunity. Occasionally you’ll find one of these guys will knock your socks off and change your mind about who you hire. Sooner or later you’ll find a diamond in the rough. After some time, more opportunities will become available because there will be more minorities in the ranks. It’s evolution. It works. It just takes time. And patience.

But let’s also keep in mind that no program likes to lose. Coaches get hired and fired each and every year. A minority coach given a shot may not pan out and will have to be fired to make room for the next guy to get a shot. If he wins, great. If he doesn’t, please don’t pull this racial bullshit if his replacement is white. College football programs want to win. The color of the man’s skin at the helm is irrelevant. Yes, it really is that simple.

Finally, I’d like to point to my own backyard for my take on minority coaches.

Mississippi State enjoyed unprecedented football success in the 13 years that Jackie Sherrill was our coach. In the forever-many years of football before Sherrill arrived on campus State had been to six bowl games. Sherrill took us to six more in just 13 seasons. But in 2001 everything changed. The wheels came off the program and we couldn’t win a game. In the shadow of looming NCAA sanctions, Sherrill bailed after the 2003 season leaving the program a total wreck.

Enter Sylvester Croom. Croom has quite the resume for football experience but zero head coaching experience. He was an All-American at Alabama for perhaps the greatest college football coach ever and later served on Bear Bryant‘s staff. While serving as an Alabama assistant coach, Croom’s teams participated in 10 bowl games and won two national championships. He moved to the professional ranks as running backs coach for Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Green Bay. He spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. His pedigree speaks for itself. He’s played and coached for championship teams. He just hadn’t been the head man before.

Mississippi State was all but forced to hire Croom; you’ll never convince me otherwise. He was rumored to be a finalist for the Alabama job a year before when they hired Mike Shula. The NAACP and the Two Revs (Jesse and Al) were going to make damn sure a minority finally get hired to break the color barrier as the first minority head football coach in the SEC. Having already suffered through three losing seasons and facing NCAA sanctions, State was in no position to pull the “but we want to hire a proven winner” card. So they interview Croom, and he blew them away.

It all goes back to just giving these guys a fair interview. Had Croom interviewed and given Larry Templeton no reason to believe he could do anything with the program then I think State could have had solid reasoning for not hiring him. But Croom had a plan for turning the program around and winning again. He also didn’t blow smoke up anyone’s ass saying State would be winning national championships anytime soon. He said he had a plan. He knew his plan would work. He also said his plan would take time and patience. Four long years, and many more defeats, later, Croom has State playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2000. And he did it the right way. He did it his way. He did it by getting rid of bad attitudes and bad character. He brought in kids with perhaps lesser talent but with good attitudes, good character, and good work ethics. And now he’s starting to win games. His way.

I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong about Croom, and if ever given the chance I’ll tell the man myself I was wrong.

It all goes back to the interview process. Give minority coaches an honest chance to interview for more jobs and the rest will work itself out naturally.

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