November 30, 2017 11:40:16 PM
STARKVILLE -- Among Southeastern Conference head football coaches, a salary of $2.6 million would've ranked next to last in the 2017, beating only Missouri's Barry Odom (while excluding that of the conference's lone interim, Matt Luke). It would've ranked less than far less successful programs including Illinois, Purdue and Virginia.
That's exactly what Mississippi State's new head coach Joe Moorhead will make in 2018 -- and that doesn't bother him. The money he is paid gives him more than enough to take care of his wife and three children; the money MSU saves on that salary gives him some to take care of his assistant coaches, as well.
MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen identified that as one of Moorhead's biggest factors as he introduced Moorhead as MSU's 33rd head football coach Thursday morning.
"As we went through the process of Joe's contract with him, it was probably the least amount of time we've spent on any subject," Cohen said. "He said, 'What you're offering me is great. Here's what's important to me: I want to take care of our staff and make sure we have the best football staff in America, that's what's important to me.'"
Moorhead's contract is for four years, the maximum length allowed for any state employee by state law. His pay will escalate to $2.7 million in 2019, $2.8 million in 2020 and $2.9 million in 2021.
His contract includes a bonus of $200,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference championship game or a $100,000 bonus for just playing in it.
Moorhead's contract also includes bowl incentives. He can only collect one of these in a given year, whichever one is highest: $1 million for winning the national championship, $500,000 for playing in the national championship game, $400,000 for playing a College Football Playoff semifinal game, $200,000 for any College Football Playoff bowl game, $100,000 for the Citrus Bowl, $50,000 for the Birmingham or Independence Bowls or $75,000 for appearing in any of the following bowl games: Taxslayer, Outback, Belk, Music City, Texas or Liberty.
Setting an identity
If Moorhead wants his teams to be known for anything, it will be the blue-collar attitude he adopted from his childhood as the son of a Pittsburgh steel mill worker.
"When you step on the field with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, you're in for a 15-round fight," Moorhead said. "We're not trying to get a score on the card, we're going for the dang knockout, and that's what's going to happen in this program.
"We are going to play every snap of every practice and every game harder than our opponent, and that's non-negotiable."
The momentum from Moorhead's introductory press conference carried him straight into good things for the recruiting class of 2018.
Amid a push from former MSU coach Dan Mullen, now recruiting for Florida, MSU reaffirmed two wide receiver commitments from four-star prospects: Malik Heath and Stephen Guidry.
Heath, a Jackson (Callaway High School) product, is rated as the No. 1 receiver in the state according to 247 Sports. Guidry is set to enter the FBS ranks after a standout for Hinds Community College.
Moorhead has to be economic with every moment spent on recruiting as he was officially introduced just three weeks before the first early signing period in modern college football history. It's quite the time crunch for a new coach.
"It's forcing everybody to do things we haven't done in the past," he said. "We have to get to know them in a short amount of time, talk about the vision and where we see them fitting into our schemes. You have to be yourself."
The Athletic reported that Moorhead's first staff move is to take Charles Huff and make him MSU's running backs coach, co-offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Huff is currently the special teams coordinator and running backs coach for Penn State.
One of Moorhead's most crucial decisions will come at defensive coordinator after Todd Grantham's decision to follow Mullen to Florida. Moorhead knows what he wants in a defensive coordinator and, as part of his pitch for the job to MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen, presented some names he will pursue.
"We've got a bunch of great names that are under consideration," Moorhead said. "I look for guys that do things that make it difficult for me to game plan against. You can talk about three down, four down and different coverage schemes and things like that, but I want someone that's going to be versatile, I want someone that's going to be attacking and really be a mirror image of our offense."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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