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Okay....what do we know about the Penn State speculation involving Dan Mullen?


Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - You know the drill by now but.....this is what The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog has learned involving Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen and his reported candidacy to the recently open Penn State University head coach position. 




You, the loyal reader, will see a front-page piece on Mullen's comments Tuesday about the reports linking him to the Penn State opening and what he says his plans are for the future coming days. - Please pick up a copy or subscribe online - it makes my bosses happy.  




However......suddenly Tuesday became my day to learn and comprehend everything I possible could about the way the athletic department at Penn State operates and how the current patchwork AD office works after Athletic Director Tim Curley was placed on administrative leave. Curley and former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz both face the felony counts stemming from the state of Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office investigation into child sex abuse charges against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Prosecutors alleged Curley and Schultz lied to a grand jury about their knowledge of an allegation of sex abuse involving Sandusky in 2002. They also face a summary count of failing to report the alleged abuse in 2002. 




- Can Penn State afford/be willing to pay top dollar for its college football coach opening? 




A source close to the situation at Penn State described to me Tuesday that the athletic department in State College is one of the few BCS programs that is a "self-sufficient" operation. What does that mean? Simple. Penn State's athletic department is financially independent from the rest of the university. In lamens terms, the athletic department makes it a policy to not use funds from the local government or state of Pennsylvania. It is a school policy to have those dollars go strictly to the academic side of the University. This piece from the Huffington Post on Nov. 10 - http://tiny.cc/qx5w9 - details nicely how this Sandusky scandal could rock the athletic department financially and change their budget for years to come. The Nittany Lions former head coach Joe Paterno made roughly $1 million a year and sources have told The Dispatch the administration at Penn State may be cautious to expand that number by more than two times over to satisfy the normal salary demands of a head coach of a Bowl Championship Series school in 2011. 


After signing his new four-year contract less than 48 hours before defeating Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl 52-14, Mullen makes roughly $2.65 million per season and has a $1.4 million buyout for any school wishing to acquire his services away from MSU. When you account for Mullen's new salary, his buyout and the salary for assistant coaches as well, the price tag to hire Dan Mullen stretches into the $6-8 million territory.  


Can Penn State afford that? 


The knee-jerk would be yes. However, one can not look at the $72.7 million in revenue from football last season according to CNNMoney.com, which ranked them fifth out of all college programs in the country, because it needs to be understood that several pieces of that money gets taken from Penn State's several non-revenue sports. 


Penn State does have a significant booster club, the Nittany Lion club, which you can say is similar to the Bulldog Club at MSU. However, on their website - http://tiny.cc/o5sqt - their officials admit "operating expenses are projected to exceed revenues within the next 10-year period" (i.e. Penn State's athletic doesn't expect to be in the black financially much longer). 


Penn State is trying to plan for new construction of athletic buildings, upgrades on the current facilities, including another renovation to Beaver Stadium including additional restroom and concession offerings and state-of-the-art game enhancements such as video boards and wi-fi access. 


According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Penn State University raised $170.5 million from individuals in the 2010-11 academic year - but it is unclear how much of that money was donated specifically for athletics. Sources have told The Dispatch, Penn State athletics is scrambling right now to find out who donors thought they were donating money to? Essentially, did they think they were giving funds to Penn State or giving money to the legend they trusted - Joe Paterno. How confident Penn State officials are that the scandal will not financially hurt them significantly will be a huge determining factor in if the athletic department can match or exceed the demands of a coach whether that be Mullen or anybody else.  


Remember, I'm not and will not say Penn State can't afford a coach like Dan Mullen or anybody else but I'm certainly being told these are the questions being asked right now on the State College campus. 




- How is the Penn State coaching search process going to operate? 




A six-person university committee that will lead the search for Joe Paterno's replacement was announced by Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner Monday.  


Despite Tuesday's report from ESPN.com college football reporter Joe Schad saying Mullen was the top candidate for the opening, it's logical to assess the situation and say if this committee was formed two days ago - it's not likely the job has been offered to any specific person yet.  


The school said in a statement Monday that the committee headed by acting athletic director Dave Joyner would meet this week. The search committee includes trustee Ira Lubert, the head of private investment management firms, and longtime women's volleyball coach Russ Rose. Also on the committee are Linda Caldwell, the faculty athletics representative; emeritus communications professor John Nichols, chair of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics; and associate athletic director Charmelle Green. 


"The mix of search committee members is intentional," Joyner said Monday night in a separate statement. "We're looking for a broad perspective and representation of the entire university." 


However, the sources close to situation at Penn State told The Dispatch Tuesday they are "shocked a football person wasn't named to the committee". No Matt Millen, no Todd Blackledge and no Franco Harris on this search committee. It's impossible to properly interpret the overall meaning of no football people being on this committee but it's fair to suggest this "broad perspective" committee could scare athletic department donors because of questions over how these coaching candidates will be vetted for the job considered by some to be the most important position on campus and who will be specifically overseeing/have final say in this process.  




These are just some of the questions that fans of Mississippi State, Penn State and those following this Dan Mullen speculation to consider in the coming days while reports potentially begin to surface regarding this story.  




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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