December 9, 2010 7:26:00 AM
Another university in the state of Florida apparently is interested in having Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen lead its football program.
As if the rumors of Mullen being a front-runner for the job as head coach at the University of Miami job weren''t enough to send shock-waves through the MSU fan base, Urban Meyer''s resignation Wednesday as football coach at the University of Florida added more anxiety.
Meyer unexpectedly stepped down last season due to health concerns only to announce the following day he''d return for the 2010 season.
But at a press conference Wednesday evening, Meyer cited the desire to spend more time with his family as his reason for stepping down.
"My daughter Gigi signed a latter of intent to go to Florida Gulf Coast and I haven''t even seen the campus yet," Meyer said. "My kids are involved with sports and different things a dad should be at -- that''s the reason. Last year was a wake-up call. It''s time to put my focus on my family."
News of Meyer''s decision broke early Wednesday afternoon, and Mullen''s name began circulating as a potential suitor. Mullen was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Florida from 2005-08, and was a part of two national championship teams before joining MSU in 2009.
Mullen''s relationship with Meyer is well documented, as he served as with Meyer at Bowling Green and Utah. His name came up when Meyer stepped down last year, but it''s believed Meyer''s decision Wednesday is definite. Mullen''s experience running Florida''s offense, which took a step back this season without quarterback Tim Tebow, and his transformation of MSU again has him on Florida''s radar.
Mullen led the Bulldogs to a 5-7 record last season and an 8-4 mark and a berth in the Gator Bowl this season. The Bulldogs have been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today poll for eight consecutive weeks.
MSU won its first SEC rushing title last season and finished second in that category this season. The Bulldogs'' success has led to 10 straight sellouts at Davis Wade Stadium.
The King David Show, on 1010 WQYK-AM radio in Tampa, reported Wednesday afternoon Mullen had already been offered the UF coaching job.
Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley denied he''d contacted anyone about the position.
"It''s hard to comment about searches publicly because they change every single day," Foley said. "I''m getting text messages already that we''ve already offered the job to somebody, and that couldn''t be further from the truth."
Mullen, who is in contract extension negotiations with MSU, makes an estimated $1.2 million per season, which ranks next to last among active Southeastern Conference head coaches. Ole Miss'' Houston Nutt makes $2.5 million a year.
Meyer was the SEC''s third highest-paid coach at a little more than $4 million per season.
On Wednesday, Mullen told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via text message he was "happy at State" and later told the Clarion Ledger he was "absolutely" committed to the MSU program and happy in Starkville.
Mullen commented on Meyer''s resignation through a university released statement.
"Urban has been a tremendous ambassador for college football, and the sport will miss him," Mullen said. "He has been a great mentor and friend to me throughout my career, and I hope he''s able to enjoy time with his family."
On Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported Mullen was one of a half-dozen coaches who spoke with Miami Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt in New York, where Mullen was attending the National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Awards Program.
On Sunday, shortly after the Bulldogs learned where they''d play their bowl game, Mullen stressed his commitment to MSU.
"There''s a lot of great things I think we can get done here at Mississippi State that I want to accomplish here at Mississippi State," Mullen said. "I plan on being the head coach here for a long time."
Foley said he expects to name a new coach in two and a half weeks, and experience as a head coach isn''t a requirement.
MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin didn''t return a message Wednesday, but took to Twitter to address the hysteria surrounding Mullen''s future at MSU.
"Every one calm down, take a deep breath, and book hotel rooms in Jacksonville (the site of MSU''s bowl game against the University of Michigan on Jan. 1, 2011)," Stricklin said. "Speculation of this nature is the price of success."
MSU returns to practice Friday. Mullen''s availability to the media has yet to be determined.
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