December 1, 2009 9:24:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- One year ago, Mississippi State Athletic Director Greg Byrne was looking for a new football coach.
After Sylvester Croom resigned following a 4-8 season and a 45-0 loss to the University of Mississippi, Byrne knew he had to find someone to help energize the program.
He found Dan Mullen.
Even though the Bulldogs went 5-7 and 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference in Mullen''s first season, Byrne saw something encouraging.
Byrne watched MSU compete each week against some of the nation''s top teams. He knew it was only a matter of time before a signature win came for Mullen and the program.
On Saturday, Byrne believes the Bulldogs earned a victory of that magnitude when they defeated then-No. 20 Ole Miss.
"The team and the fans deserved to get over the hump and win a big one," Byrne said. "We did that. It''s given great energy in building what''s already there. It was another important piece to the foundation coach Mullen laid in his first year, and we''re going to build upon for the future. We feel very excited about what''s ahead."
Byrne understands the significance of the Bulldogs regaining the Golden Egg Trophy, and he plans to showcase it on campus over the next couple of weeks. He wants it to be a reminder of how much hard work it takes to accomplish goals.
"It should lead to an even greater effort in our offseason conditioning, workouts and pursuit in the classroom as well as the ability to sell season tickets and sell Bulldog Club memberships," Byrne said.
It will be hard to top what MSU did in ticket sales this season, as it broke the old record for season tickets with more than 40,000 and set the single-game all-time attendance mark twice. The season attendance total of 376,574 broke the record of 306,545 set during the 2004 season by nearly 70,000.
Byrne and Mullen, who were together Monday night at the Conerly Trophy presentation in Jackson, plan to sit down and evaluate the season later this week.
At that meeting, Byrne could determine whether Mullen deserves a contract extension or a raise.
Mullen''s $1.2 million annual salary could be addressed along with those of defensive coordinator Carl Torbush ($260,000) and offensive coordinator Les Koenning ($250,000).
"We''ll handle that when appropriate," Byrne said.
Byrne has also begun initial thoughts on preparing Davis Wade Stadium for a renovation.
He said any such consideration is "a several-year process," but he understands it''s something that needs to happen to give student-athletes the best experience possible.
"It''s just getting off the ground right now," Byrne said. "We''ve talked to an architect already, but are in the early stages. We''ve got to address the west side of the stadium and we''ve got to look at the north end zone and what goes on there."
Byrne knows all sports are important when it comes to facility improvements, but said his department needs to make sure football is in as strong a position as it can be because "that has the biggest financial impact on everything else we do."
MSU junior defensive end Pernell McPhee was named the SEC''s Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week after he had five tackles and one quarterback hurry against Ole Miss.
McPhee was a part of a defense that held the Rebels to 90 yards rushing and forced four turnovers.
He''s the third Bulldog to win the defensive line honor since it was created in 2004. Willie Evans won it in 2005 and Jessie Bowman captured it in 2008.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College defensive tackle James Carmon gave a verbal commitment to the Bulldogs over the weekend.
Carmon also was being recruited by Alabama, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Penn State, South Florida, Tennessee, Memphis, and Coastal Carolina.
Junior college players can sign with four-year schools Dec. 15.
There could be a spot for the 6-7, 370-pounder on the MSU defensive line with the graduation of senior defensive tackles Kyle Love and Charles Burns, while junior defensive end Brandon Cooper has chosen to leave the program early.
Golden Egg on display
The 82-year-old Golden Egg will be on display from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and it will be at the Southern Miss-Mississippi State women''s basketball game at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
From 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Bulldog Club members can have their picture taken with the trophy in the Bryan Athletic Administration Building before the men''s basketball team''s 1 p.m. contest against St. Bonaventure. A photographer will be there to take pictures Saturday, but fans may also bring a camera.
1. Southern Mississippi beats MSU in Pearl COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Mississippi players help MSU grow softball in state COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tight ends could play bigger role for Mullen's Bulldogs COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Energized Bulldogs push on to Sweet 16 LOCAL COLUMNS
5. New Hope loses to Oxford in region opener HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS