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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Mississippi State hires Florida coordinator as coach

By Pat Forde
ESPN.com

Mississippi State will introduce Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen as its next football coach on Thursday morning in Starkville.

Terms of the deal are not known.

Coordinator to head coach

Dan Mullen, waiting in the wings as Mississippi State's next football coach, reshaped Florida's offense into one of the FBS' most potent units.

Scoring offense, last 4 seasons
  PPG FBS rank
2008 45.2 3rd
2007 42.3 3rd
2006 29.7 23rd
2005 28.6 49th

"A lot of people get in this profession and when you have head coaching opportunities, they're very rare," Florida coach Urban Meyer said at news conference in Hollywood, Fla. "Head coaching opportunities in the Southeastern Conference at a young age is a great honor. So [Tim Tebow] had the same exact reaction that I did: Doggone it, but we wish you well."

Mullen, 36, fits the profile Mississippi State was searching for: a high-energy personality, a strong recruiter and an offensive background. In addition, Mullen knows the SEC after four years of working with Meyer in Gainesville -- something that gave him an advantage over Oklahoma's Kevin Wilson, another high-profile offensive coordinator interviewed for the job.

"We feel like he's the right fit for our football program, and we're looking forward to tomorrow and letting everyone meet him," Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said. "We think he brings everything we were looking for in our football coach."

It is unclear whether Mullen will stay with Florida through the FedEx BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma.

"It's all too fresh," Meyer said. "The most important thing is whatever gives the University of Florida and our players an opportunity to be successful on that night and I have not had a chance to evaluate that yet."

Meyer told reporters after the SEC championship game that Mullen was in contact with Byrne about the job.

Byrne interviewed other candidates for the job. Chris Peterson of Boise State and Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley both denied interest in the job and Byrne also appears to have talked with Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

Byrne said he was looking for a coach who could jazz up that woeful offense and got him. Mullen led the Gators to a team record for points in a season this year and has Tebow in the running for a second Heisman Trophy.

"They are going to get coach who likes to work, who will do a great job," Tebow said. "They'll have success because of the way he is."

Prior to going to Florida, Mullen was Meyer's quarterbacks coach at Utah, where he worked with eventual No. 1 NFL draft pick Alex Smith. At Florida he tutored Chris Leak during the Gators' 2006 national championship campaign and also helped coach Tebow to the 2007 Heisman Trophy and a spot as a Heisman finalist this season.

Under Mullen's stewardship, the Gators were 18th in the FBS in total offense this season; Florida ranked 61st in total offense in Mullen's first season running the offense, then 19th and 14th in 2007.

"He's a great coach," Meyer said. "I made a comment [when] someone wrote an article about us and I said, 'Boy, his résumé is pretty good,'" Meyer said. "When you work with a guy, you don't realize it. He's been with me as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, we went together to Bowling Green, developed Josh Harris, went from there to Alex Smith at Utah, and then came here and Chris Leak and Tim. So the résumé is pretty strong and I wish him all the best."

Mullen replaces Sylvester Croom, who was the first black head football coach in SEC history. Croom resigned under pressure Nov. 29 after five seasons on the job.

Croom's record at Mississippi State was 21-38. He was SEC Coach of the Year in 2007 after an 8-5 season capped by a Liberty Bowl victory, but the Bulldogs backslid this season to 4-8 and were again woeful offensively.

In Croom's five years, Mississippi State's offense was ranked in triple digits every year out of 119 teams (120 the past two years, since Western Kentucky joined the FBS). Meanwhile, Mullen's spread attack at Florida ranked third nationally in scoring and 18th in total offense.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.