Bumped. While here at BruinsNation, we are not specifically endorsing any coach as a preferred candidate, Dan Mullen is the kind of coach if UCLA administrators should be taking a close look at. He is the kind of candidate who could potentially galvanize Bruin Nation. - BN Eds.
I know it's not BN's policy to get behind a specific coach, but I think it's time for anyone who supports Dan Mullen as our next coach to make their support known to our athletic department. Mullen is not the sure thing that would've excited us all like Petersen or Leach -- the latter of whom we could've easily had, if our AD wasn't such a small-minded ignoramus. But given what's left, I think Mullen presents the most exciting and promising choice, unless some star college coach nobody suspects (like Bobby Petrino) would be willing to switch schools.
Mullen, I believe, would be a far wiser hire than Sarkisian, Mora, Jones, Belloti, or Al Golden, the current favorite because of his connection to Gene Block. I will make my argument as concise as possible.
Every coach but a handful are "risks." But there are worthy, high reward risks and there are stupid risks (like hiring a position coach with no known acumen or playcalling experience who learned from Donahu, or hiring a guy out of coaching for 4 years).
The way to know a high reward risk is to examine the knowns and unknowns. Here is what we KNOW about Dan Mullen.
1. Championship college experience
He has been the right hand man of arguably the best coach in college, Urban Meyer, at three programs: Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida. Some consider him the brains behind Meyer's offensive system, but whether or not he deserves such a singular designation is beside the point. The point is, he knows from the inside how to run a championship quality college program from all angles. Most great coaches out there worked for a great coach. Mullen more than worked with one; he was in many ways integral to that great coach's success.
Al Golden's experience, in contrast, came first under an ancient Paterno and then as DC for Al Groh at Virginia, who never had better than a 32nd ranked D. Not nearly as inspiring as Urban Meyer, IMO.
2. Overachiever as a head coach at the highest level/Building a program
Mullen has spent three seasons at MSU, the worst program in the SEC along with Vanderbilt (but without the academic prestige that might land Vanderbilt more recruits). The year before he took over they were 4-8. To save myself time, here is the Wikipedia summary of his first two seasons:
"In his first season as head coach at Mississippi State in 2009, his team went 5–7 against the toughest schedule in the nation . In 2010, his Bulldog team went 9-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC including victories over Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and Mississippi, and the 4 losses came only to teams ranked in the Top 12. Mississippi State capped off the 2010 season by thrashing traditional power Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl 52-14 [ahem, Rich Rod, ahem], and achieved a #15 ranking in the final AP poll."
I will add that those losses last year included a 3 point loss to eventual champion Auburn, and a double overtime loss to top 7 Arkansas.
This year MSU is only 6-6...but again against a murderous schedule, in which they only had one blowout -- to Arkansas. They lost to LSU only 19-3...a better showing than most other teams that lost to LSU. To me, that 6-6 record is far superior to Al Golden's 6-6 at Miami, with far superior talent in a far weaker conference, and several more blowouts.
3. Proficiency at both Offense and Defense
Most coaches have only one known strength. Mullen has two -- in that his teams have played well on both sides. He is an offensive mind, yet his defense is always tough, and he found and hired Manny Diaz out of Middle Tennessee. Always a good sign when a coach's team performs in the department that's not his specialty. Something you can't say of Sark, Jones, etc.
As a sidenote on staff hires: Al Golden's TE coach at Miami is none other than Brennan Carroll. Yes, that diaper boy.
4. Is young, aggressive, has swagger
Not unique qualities, but very important, as they show that he will only get better...as opposed to older coaches whose ceilings are known. Also, he will take on the other egos in this conference face-to-face, which is very necessary to survive in LA.
5. Presents a definitive contrast to other coaches in our conference
To me, hiring the diet version of a superior coach in the same conference is stupid. With Leach here, you know that Sumlin or Jones would be running an inferior version of the same offense. Kiffin and Sark run the same pro-style offense as well, similar to Stanford's and Cal's. Mullen would bring his unique, Meyerian offense with him, a spread-option that can be likened abstractly to Chip Kelly and Rich Rod, though he clearly has a mind of his own.
Incidentally, Mullen has kicked Rich Rod's ass with far less talent, and has a very high underground reputation as one of the "New Hampshire" mafia together with Kelly (their systems are still quite distinct). To me, he is exactly the kind of outsider guy who can shock our program back to life.
Mullen has been signing some top 20 classes at MSU, which is again the worst school to recruit to in the SEC.
In short, Mullen has a number of very promising KNOWNS, without any negative KNOWNS -- which is what makes him a very worthy risk. Most coaches left on the list have some very glaring bad-knowns. He has his share of unknowns, as we don't know if he can HC his way to a championship, but there is not a single 39 year old coach who could do that after 3 years at MSU.
I will end it here with a call for all BNers who support Mullen to make their support loudly known. I'm not sure Dan Guerrero has ever heard of him, unless somebody in the AD has told him recently. I think he's a guy who would provide real hope to our fanbase and program, and free up the suicide hotline.