By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has no immediate plans to replace Urban Meyer in Gainesville, Fla.
A source close to the situation has told the Starkville Daily News that he received word from the Bulldogs head coach that he doesn’t plan to be the next head football at the University of Florida.
This revelation comes hours after Florida’s athletic department released the news that Meyer was officially stepping down as the Gators head coach.
Mullen told the SDN via text right when the news broke that he has not been contacted by anyone related to the Florida program and was shocked to hear Meyer would resign after six years at UF.
"Urban has been a tremendous ambassador for college football and the sport will certainly miss him,” Mullen said via a statement released by Mississippi State University. “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.”
The same source told the Starkville Daily News that Mullen, who was an assistant under Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida before accepting the job at Mississippi State in 2008, is a top candidate for the opening at Florida. Some of the names also pegged as early favorites include Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino and Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.
In six seasons at Florida, Meyer led the Gators to two national championships, three Southeastern Conference East crowns, and he has a 64-15 record entering the Outback Bowl matchup against Penn State. The Gators won a school-record 22 consecutive games during Meyer’s tenure, the fourth-longest streak by an SEC team and the longest in 15 years.
“I don't know if you'll see Urban catch up to Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno,’’ Mullen was quoted saying in the UF release, which was taken after MSU’s 10-7 win this season at Florida. “Before he gets close to coach Bowden, he'll sail away.”
In a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said the search to find Meyer’s replacement would begin immediately but stated UF officials haven’t contacted any candidate and suggested it would likely be a two-and-a-half week process.
Mississippi State is scheduled to begin practices Friday for its 2011 Gator Bowl matchup with Michigan on New Year’s Day (12:30 p.m., ESPN2) once the players complete final exams this week.
Meyer called Foley on Saturday to tell him he was contemplating retirement. The two met Tuesday to finalize his decision.
Meyer, 46, briefly resigned last December, citing health concerns, before returning the next day. He had been hospitalized with chest pains after the Gators lost to Alabama in the 2009 Southeastern Conference championship game.
"He's put his heart and soul into college football," Foley told The Associated Press before the news conference. "He's not sick. This is a totally different situation than a year ago. He just wants to take a step back and spend time with his family."
Meyer became the fastest coach in SEC history and second-fastest since 1945 to reach 100 career wins when the Gators defeated Kentucky 48-14 on Sept. 25. In 10 total seasons as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, Meyer has a 103-23 record and has won three National Coach of the Year Awards.
“When I first came to Florida in 1976, all anybody wanted to do here was win one Southeastern Conference championship,” Foley said. “As good of a coach as he is, he’s a better person. He’s given Gator fans and this program memories of a lifetime.”
Foley said during Meyer’s media conference that he has heard about rumors and reports of the UF job already being offered to someone but strongly stated that hasn’t occurred.
While he’s maintained his personal policy to not comment publicly on such matters, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin did make a statement on his Twitter account attempting to ease the worries of the Bulldogs fan base.
“Every one calm down, take deep breath, book hotel rooms in Jacksonville,” Stricklin tweeted. “Speculation of this nature is price of success.”
Mullen, who has a 13-11 record in two seasons with Mississippi State, has consistently said he has had no contact with anybody related to any current Division 1 openings.
While at MSU, Mullen has become the first coach to win his first two Egg Bowl matchups since 1940 when Allyn McKeen accomplished the feat. This season, 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.
Mullen took the Bulldogs program in 2010 to an 8-4 record and the school's first New Year's Day bowl game this century and first Florida bowl game since World War II.
Prior to the Meyer announcement, the Miami Herald reported Mullen had discussions in New York City with Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt about the Hurricanes current head-coaching opening at the National Football Foundation Annual Banquet Tuesday night.