Mississippi State fires Arnett after 11 games

Mississippi State fires Arnett after 11 games

Mississippi State announced Monday that it had fired head football coach Zach Arnett after just one season.

Arnett, who had served as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator for three seasons, was promoted to head coach last December after the sudden death of Mike Leach. Arnett’s hiring last December also came with the school searching for an athletic director, as John Cohen had left a little more than a month earlier for the Auburn athletic director’s job.

Mississippi State (4-6, 1-6 in the SEC) has lost six of its last eight games and is coming off a 51-10 loss to Texas A&M, which just fired its coach, Jimbo Fisher, on Sunday.

“As part of my thorough and continued evaluation, I have determined that a chance in leadership is necessary to move our football program forward and position it for the highest level of success,” Mississippi State athletic director Zac Selmon said Monday in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Zach Arnett and am incredibly appreciative of the effort he put forth in leading our football program. However, the progress and on-field results have not been of the standard required for Mississippi State to achieve the level of success we need and expect.”

The Bulldogs have struggled on offense this season. They’ve scored more than 17 points just once in seven SEC games, and in their last four games, have scored a total of 33 points.

Arnett went away from Leach’s Air Raid offense in hiring new offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay, who installed more of a pro-style system. The Bulldogs were also hurt by an injury to veteran quarterback Will Rogers during the second half of the season.

Mississippi State president Mark Keenum said Selmon, who was hired in January from Oklahoma, would move effectively in the search process.

“When Zac Selmon was hired after coach Leach’s passing, one of the attributes he reflected was the ability to effectively identify and recruit talent,” Keenum said. “I have every confidence that Zac will move quickly to identify a new leader for our football program who will energize our team, our students and our loyal and enthusiastic fan base.”

Some potential candidates to replace Arnett are Tulane’s Willie Fritz, Liberty’s Jamey Chadwell, UNLV’s Barry Odom, Kansas’ Lance Leipold, Troy’s Jon Sumrall, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore.

Greg Knox, who was previously an interim coach at both Mississippi State and Florida, will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season.

By comparative standards, Arnett’s buyout is not massive. Mississippi State will owe him nearly $4 million, but it’s subject to mitigation if he should get another job.

Arnett, 37, found himself in an incredibly difficult situation when he was named head coach last December. Not only had Leach just died, but Arnett was trying to get Mississippi State ready for a bowl game, and the December signing date was about a week away. There was also the transfer portal to deal with, both retaining players and finding players.

“I want to sincerely thank Zach Arnett for his hard work and service to the university and our football program. I will forever be grateful to Zach for how he stepped up after the untimely death of Mike Leach,” Keenum said.

Arnett, one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the country, will be on a lot of schools’ short lists as they search for defensive coordinators this offseason.