Mississippi State fires Joe Moorhead after just two seasons as head coach
Moorhead had been considered a candidate for Rutgers during the season
The coaching carousel has begun to spin again with Mississippi State firing coach Joe Moorhead on Friday after just two seasons in Starkville, Mississippi. This after the Bulldogs retained Moorhead following the regular season and had him coach Mississippi State to a 38-28 loss in the Music City Bowl.
"In consultation with President Mark Keenum and after a thorough review and evaluation of all aspects of our football program, I have decided that a change in leadership is in the best interest of our team and university," said athletic director John Cohen in a statement released by the school. "I want to thank Coach Moorhead for the hard work he has done with our football program. I wish Joe and his family success in the future."
"It is clear the time has come to change the leadership of our football program," Keenum said in a statement. "Coach Moorhead is a good man, and I have nothing but respect for him. I sincerely wish the very best for him and his wonderful family."
There had been reports during the season of unrest in the program. Moorhead reportedly had his eyes on the Rutgers job, and people at Mississippi State were considering a possible move of their own. All that speculation dissipated, however, when Mississippi State ended the regular season with a win over rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. After the game, Moorhead stressed his commitment to Mississippi State.
"This is my team. This is my school. This is my program," Moorhead said. "You'll have to drag my Yankee ass out of here."
Now, a little over a month later, Mississippi State has done just that. It seems as though the post-victory adrenaline rush over a rival -- thanks in large part to a player on Ole Miss pretending to urinate like a dog following a late touchdown -- faded and those in power at Mississippi State began reconsidering things.
Mississippi State lost the Music City Bowl but played the game without starting quarterback Garrett Shrader. While never confirmed by the team, reports indicated that Shrader got into a fight with Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay, an incident that resulted in a broken orbital bone for Shrader. Gay played in Mississippi State's bowl loss but missed eight games during the season as one of 10 players on the team that was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.
All of that, combined with lackluster results, are no doubt what led to Moorhead's dismissal. Mississippi State went 14-12 in his two seasons but only posted a 7-9 mark in SEC play. The Bulldogs were 3-5 in SEC play this year with their five conference losses coming by an average of 23.2 points.
Moorhead is the third Power Five coach to be fired during or just after their second year at the school this season. Florida State fired Willie Taggart after 21 games, while Arkansas dismissed Chad Morris after 22. Moorhead is also the third coach to be fired in the SEC West this season, joining Morris and the coach he beat in the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss' Matt Luke. Arkansas has since hired Sam Pittman, while Ole Miss replaced Luke with Lane Kiffin.
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