October 31, 2017 9:57:14 AM
A Ph.D. candidate in sociology in search of a dissertation might consider examining college football fans for insight into human behavior.
For better, and often for worse, college football lays bare the base human emotions that govern our thoughts, actions and relationships with others.
When the University of Florida announced Sunday it was parting ways with its head coach, speculation immediately turned Dan Mullen, Mississippi State's ninth-year head coach, whose ties to Florida (he was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator on two national championship teams) and its athletic director, Scott Stricklin, who served in the same capacity at MSU for seven of Mullen's nine years here.
What may follow is a courtship ceremony to rival anything you might see on the National Geographic Channel. There are three realistic possibilities: Mullen, whose name is so often linked to high-profile jobs that he jokes about it, may be offered and accept the Florida job. He may never be offered the job. But if there was ever one job that Mullen would take, if offered, it would be at Florida.
So we are all waiting around to see what happens.
In the meantime, it seems appropriate -- if not prescient -- to examine Mullen's tenure at State in terms of two interrelated character traits that have plagued mankind down through he centuries -- complacency and greed.
Greed is essentially wanting more than you already have. Complacency is what happens when greed takes over. You take for granted what you have in pursuit of what you don't.
We confess that we may be guilty of both when it comes to our appreciation of what Mullen has achieved -- and has yet to achieve -- at Mississippi State.
In roughly 8 1/2 seasons, Mullen has won 67 games. That's a little better than seven games a year, which is impressive only in context. Only Jackie Sherrill has won more games (75) and it took him four-plus years to do it. Mullen's winning percentage (.620) is only eclipsed by that brief and shining moment back in the 1940s under Allyn McKeen (.764) when Bear Bryant wasn't even a rumor.
Before Mullen arrived, a bowl was something you waited for until the stars aligned, maybe once every four or five years, if the fates were kind. MSU has been to bowl in all but the first year of Mullen's tenure at State and qualified for its eighth consecutive bowl game before the calendar turned to November with Saturday's win over Texas A&M.
If there has been any criticism, it is that Mullen has been unable to break through to win the SEC West, the SEC championship or the national championship, which is scarcely an indictment, given the presence of you-know-what just across the state line to the east.
That's the football stuff.
What we may also be inclined to take for granted is what Mullen's presence has done for the university and the broader community.
When Dak Prescott captured the attention of the football-loving world, first at MSU and then last year as the NFL's Rookie of the Year season with the Cowboys, we noted the profound impact he had on MSU's name recognition, brand and marketing -- millions of dollars worth of exposure.
But under the theory of "first causes," there would not have been a Prescott without a Mullen to recruit and groom him. Certainly, Mullen's style of offense and his well-deserved reputation as something of a "quarterback whisperer" benefited Prescott immeasurably.
The Bulldogs are winning more than ever, bringing in more revenue and exposure than ever, and giving the local economy a shot in the arm unlike anything it has previously enjoyed.
Indirectly Mullen has sold more beer and meals and hotel rooms and souvenirs in Starkville than we can be accurately measured. As a economic development engine, he is PACCAR or Steel Dynamics or Yokohama in a coach's shorts.
In 2013 Mississippi State built a lavish new football facility -- the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. A year later, Davis Wade Stadium underwent a 75-million renovation/expansion.
All of that money came from donors, who like winning football games, which is something Mullen has been able to deliver on a pretty consistent basis.
So, let's check our greed for a moment, repent our complacency and salute Mullen while he is here and as long as he is here.
He has earned our appreciation and gratitude.
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