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2009 SEC Media Days: Dan Mullen Bringing Excitement Back to Starkville

Justin HokansonSenior Writer IJuly 23, 2009

It's said what you don't know won't hurt you. Well don't tell new Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen that he's coaching a program that was 4-8 last season and has been the SEC cellar dweller for most of the last five years, and even if you did, I'm not sure he would care.

Mullen took the podium Wednesday, brimming with that confidence and appeal that he learned as Florida's offensive coordinator. He helped the Gators win two of the last three BCS titles.

Right off the bat, Mullen was joking with the media about Twittering on stage and saying he would answer all questions through Twitter or Facebook. Like an old pro, Mullen already had most of the crowd eating it up.

While the Bulldogs will lack the talent to compete and beat the better teams in the SEC this year, what he seems to be doing is energizing a fan base that had surely grown stale and complacent with the Sylvester Croom era.

Well, that's changing now with a charismatic Mullen, and State fans are getting behind their new coach.

"The excitement for our program has been off the charts," Mullen said Wednesday.

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"When I was hired, we went out [and] I wanted to give the state of Mississippi a team they could be proud of on and off the field. We promoted our program. They returned by having 31,000 people show up for our spring football game, which was a record in the state of Mississippi."

Mullen even spoke of how the fans impacted his students in the classroom as well as on the field after their record turnout to the spring game. Mullen was not the only one making an impact with his excitement and passion, but the fans in return were responding to it in a big way.

"To see that passion the fans have, the excitement they had, drove our team to work even harder over the summer. I think that had a lot to do with our team recording one of the highest GPA's in school history...that finish that our team had when they saw the passion the fans had, having a record crowd turn out to watch them, you know what, it gave them a lot of motivation going into the last couple of weeks of school and obviously rolling into summer."

Many Bulldog fans will tell you how excited they are every time they go hear Mullen speak. While Mullen travels around to booster groups to do fundraisers and fire up the home fans, he's apparently doing his job extremely well in the early going.

"We got to travel around and meet a lot of booster groups. [We] had huge crowds everywhere we went. Got to see the excitement in everyone's face, the passion they had for their university. I think we sold over 37,000 season tickets to this point. I'm hoping we get to 40,000 before the season starts."

Mississippi State only sold out one game last season—the second game of the year against Auburn. Ironically, the only sold-out crowd saw an unreal 3-2 ballgame that no doubt killed their chances for a sellout for the rest of the season.

The majority of their games last season only were attended by approximately 40,000 people. So, season ticket sales of 37,000 to 40,000 after a 4-8 season speak to Mullen's ability to ignite the fans for the future.

With the increased ticket sales, Mullen is trying to build a home field advantage in Starkville as well. In a conference where a road game is normally counted as a loss, the Bulldogs need something to help level the playing field until they build their talent pool back up.

"Any team that comes in, we want to make Starkville one of the hardest destinations in the league," he said "I'm hoping our fans will follow through with that and make it a tough place."

So, as Mullen prepares for his first season as a head coach in the SEC, he has at least successfully completed phase one of the new coach's handbook. He's created belief and excitement in the fan base that you can get the job done.

Now will that help when Tebow and the Gators come to town in October? We'll find out soon enough.