STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University is expecting to put its head football coach back on a four-year agreement for the third consecutive winter.
And all it took was a look, a nod and two words.
MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said Tuesday night and repeated Wednesday the university is prepared to add another year to the contract of head football coach Dan Mullen.
Stricklin jokingly asked Mullen during a Music City Bowl media conference Tuesday night at Humphrey Coliseum if the third-year coach was happy with his deal and the coach immediately responded.
“I’m happy,” Mullen exclaimed.
Every season and every coach is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, Stricklin acknowledged in an interview with The Dispatch, Wednesday. But he also echoed the attitude of his predecessor, Greg Byrne, that it was always important for Mullen to be given the fourth year whenever possible for recruiting purposes every offseason.
According to Mississippi law, no state employee is legally allowed to have a contract longer than four years. Any new extension would need approval from the state College Board before becoming official.
“Every situation is different, but our intention this year is to get Dan back to the state maximum length and we have the basic structure to do that,” Stricklin said.
Fewer than 48 hours before MSU’s 52-14 victory over Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl, Mullen signed a four-year deal worth $10.6 million with a $1.4 million buyout. After that contract, Mullen’s annual salary of $2.65 million made him the sixth-highest paid head coach in the Southeastern Conference.
“I was very pleased, and the school really stepped up last year and took care of me,” Mullen said two weeks ago. “I know I’m very, very happy with the agreement we came upon last year.”
Mullen is 20-17 overall at MSU but is coming off three straight Egg Bowl victories for the first time since World War II and the school’s first back-to-back bowl appearances since 2000.
In each of the past two offseasons, Mullen has had his contract extended, but Stricklin hinted this time would be more like the first negotiation when the deal was simply extended with no additional financial compensation.
“Dan and I are on the same page on the direction of the program,” Stricklin said. “We expect to have continued momentum and get to a point where baseline is higher. We’d like a bad year to be 8-4 and a good year means we’re in Atlanta competing for an SEC championship.”
Mullen had been rumored to be a candidate for the opening at Penn State University. He has publicly denied any interest in the Nittany Lions program while concentrating on preparations for the 2011 Music City Bowl matchup with Wake Forest University on Dec. 30 (5:40 p.m., ESPN).
“I tell (the MSU players) I’m happy here and let’s worry about being here,” Mullen said Nov. 29. “Every single job that comes open last year my name came up with. I have people texting me saying someone is saying this or that about you. I’m pretty busy so I don’t have much attention to it.”