By MATTHEW STEVENS
Despite having the flu, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen figured the only way he could get away from the speculation he was leaving Starkville was attending the Conerly Trophy presentation.
The Bulldogs second-year couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Even though I have the flu, to avoid all speculation I was coming,” Mullen said in Jackson Tuesday evening. “I figured (if he didn’t attend) everybody would be ‘oh my gosh what happened?”
After multiple news outlets were reporting Mullen as a candidate for both the University of Minnesota and the University of Miami, The Starkville Daily News asked him directly Monday afternoon via a text message about the speculation surrounding his name and both programs.
20 minutes after that text was sent, Mullen used his Twitter account to address the speculation writing ‘with all the rumors, all I am mulling over is the flu and what bowl we are going too.’
“I’m going to tell you what, if you want to find out if I’m a candidate for any job you’re talking to the wrong person,” Mullen said at the Conerly Trophy presentation. “She’s (wife Megan) right around the corner! She really likes Starkville, Mississippi!”
Before the Conerly Trophy was presented, Mullen dismissed the rumor to the assembled media he would be meeting soon with Miami officials.
“Well, I don’t know if I’m legally allowed to say this, but the worst thing is I’m flying out at 7 tomorrow morning for a recruiting trip,” Mullen said.
Canesports.net, the Rivals affiliate for the University of Miami, reported Miami was close to an agreement with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden to be its next head coach.
Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed to the Starkville Daily News Monday evening that his department is working with Mullen on a new four-year contract that will set to run until 2014.
“We're going to be smart and aggressive in this process,” Stricklin said. “The normal protocol for something like this and the way we’ve done it in the past is to rip up the old contract and sign a brand new four-year deal.”
Under Mississippi state law, contracts with state employees can last no longer than four years. A phone message left at the office of Mullen’s agent was not immediately returned and Stricklin refused to comment on the specific financial details of a potential deal.
Mullen did confirm Tuesday night he and Stricklin had been involved in discussions since Saturday’s 31-23 victory over Ole Miss in Oxford, but they’ve been mostly about the future of the Bulldogs program.
“A lot of it is on our thoughts for the future, how we can make the program go forward,” Mullen said. “What we need, what we’re lacking, what we can improve on, to help our program go forward.”
Mullen, 38, has a 13-11 record in two season with Mississippi State after being a part of two national championship staffs as the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida under Urban Meyer.
In 2010, Mullen was able to lead MSU past Florida and Georgia in the same season for the first time in school history and its first national ranking since 1999.
“I want to talk about the season that was, still,” Mullen said. “Because we plan on having a lot more good seasons like that, hopefully, in the future.”
Mullen first addressed the rumors and speculation on the First Call radio show hosted former Mississippi State quarterback Matt Wyatt saying he had not been contacted by a single school yet.
"It’s speculation and like I said before it means we’re winning, it’s a positive thing,” Mullen said Tuesday night. “But speculation never quite gets close to reality. The reality, I have not talked to anybody.”