It's no surprise that with a bowl game on tap and another recruiting class to try and nail down before next February -- assuming he's still the one trying to nail it down -- Dan Mullen wouldn't take kindly to reports and rumors that he's about to catch the next plane for the Penn State job.
And with just such a report circulating from the local TV station, Mullen didn't take kindly to it at an appearance at the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame Tuesday night. He told the Clarion-Ledger that he hadn't been contacted by Penn State "or any other school," called the reports "the most irresponsible reporting that I've ever heard of," and saw his athletic director reiterate his denials of contact from Happy Valley.
But the most interesting part of Mullen's statements was who he claimed had been behind the report--namely, his in-state rivals at Ole Miss:
"I blame it on rival institutions trying to ruin our recruiting which we have dominated in this state over the past three years," Mullen said ...Mullen has made antagonizing (and, to be fair, soundly thrashing) Ole Miss at every opportunity a cornerstone of his Mississippi State tenure, and it's no doubt won him a tremendous amount of support within the Bulldog fanbase. But blaming the Rebels -- who, despite Mullen's claims, have enjoyed the higher overall consensus recruiting rankings of late -- for media sabotage is a delicious new high even for him.
Mullen was asked if he had an idea what rival school might have planted the story.
"You take it from there," he said.
In any case, the TV station reportedly apologized to Mullen at the Hall of Fame event. But it wasn't the only one to report that the Nittany Lions were interested in Mullen's services; ESPN and the Scranton Times both cited sources in claiming Mullen was PSU's top candidate. And Mullen has yet to categorically deny interest in the Penn State opening or state that he will be coaching Mississippi State next year.
"Every time a job comes open, doesn’t my name come up?," Mullen said earlier Tuesday. "So, you know our policy. We talk Mississippi State football. That’s all we ever talk about.”
That's not a bad policy. But until Mullen flat-out states that he's going to be coaching in Starkville next season, he's probably got a few more reports to debunk before all is said and done.
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