Mississippi State gives Mullen a hefty raise

Mississippi State may have one of the smallest athletic budgets in the SEC, but the Bulldogs are paying top dollar to make sure they hold onto their football coach.

Dan Mullen, who has the Bulldogs in a Jan. 1 bowl game for the first time since the 1998 season, agreed to a new contract Thursday that will pay him an average of $2.65 million annually over the next four years. Mullen's new four-year deal is worth $10.6 million and includes a $1.4 million buyout.

He's now somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of SEC coaching salaries. That's after being at the bottom of the league with his old deal, which paid him $1.2 million per year.

Seven of the SEC's 12 head coaches now earn $2.5 million or more per year, and that number will almost assuredly grow to eight head coaches. Auburn's Gene Chizik is also expected to get a raise that will take his annual salary well over the $2.5 million mark.

Mississippi State officials had been talking with Mullen since October about a new contract. The Bulldogs were one of the most improved teams in the SEC this season, and Mullen is now 2-0 against arch-rival Ole Miss. His name was mentioned in connection with both the Miami and Florida head coaching vacancies, and it was going to keep coming up whenever other high-profile jobs came open.

But with this kind of financial commitment, Mississippi State stands a much better chance of keeping him around Starkville a lot longer. Plus, Mullen says he's adamant about finishing what he started -- and that's making the Bulldogs a perennial top-tier program in the SEC.