Headhunters: Mulling Dan Mullen as Paterno’s successor, and other notes from the coaching market

Dr. Saturday

Today's casualties. To no one's surprise, Paul Wulff is officially toast today after four miserable years at Washington State, continuing the Pac-12 reckoning that began Monday with Rick Neuheisel and Dennis Erickson at UCLA and Arizona State. Along with Mike Stoops at Arizona — already replaced by Rich Rodriguez — at least a third of the conference will be manned by a new boss next year. The most likely addition: Houston's Kevin Sumlin, reportedly being UCLA's other targets, the Bruins may be looking at a Sumlin-or-bust scenario. (Best guess: Bust.)

In fact, Wulff's fourth and final season was significantly less miserable than his first three, thanks to a 3-1 start and a late upset over Arizona State that may have sealed Erickson's fate. The Cougars also demonstrated an offensive pulse for the first time with a top-10 passing attack. But it doesn't take much to improve on teams that combined to go 5-32 from 2008-10, and seven losses in the last eight wasn't exactly a rousing display of progress or profitability: Four of six home home games drew less than 30,000, officially, and the home finale against Utah two weeks ago had announced crowd of 16,419. Three guess who's at the top of the list to remedy that situation.

The Dan of the hour. Mississippi State was one of the bigger disappointments in the SEC — which, in a league with Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss, is saying something — crashing from a 9-4 high in 2010 to 6-6 with exactly one win against a winning team: 26-20 over Louisiana Tech, in overtime. Which means either Dan Mullen's agent is that good, or Penn State's options for replacing Joe Paterno are looking a little thin:

If there was any doubt Dan Mullen desires to be a candidate for the Penn State head football coaching job, there is none now.

In an informal, regularly scheduled post-season press briefing (video courtesy of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger), the Mississippi State coach and former offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green deflected questions about his reported candidacy at PSU and denied nothing. That means he's interested.

"Great," Mullen said. "I'm sure I'm on everybody's [list]. Am I right? Every time a job comes open, doesn't my name come up? So, you know our policy. We talk Mississippi State football. That's all we ever talk about."

Fair enough. In the meantime, everyone else was talking about Mullen's prospects in Happy Valley, where his father attended and graduated in the mid-sixties. Mullen himself grew up a Nittany Lion fan and went to Ursinus College outside Philadelphia; his wife grew up in Pittsburgh. And if any of that convinces him to walk into a full-scale rebuilding job on a traumatized campus that hasn't broken in a new head coach in 46 years — a year after receiving an extension and raise to keep him in Starkville — he is one homesick lug.

About that "In sickness" part... If you haven't already — and if you've been on pretty much any message board that discusses college athletic since last weekend, you probably have — meet Kristi Malzahn, wife of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and now an unfortunate Internet meme:{YSP:MORE}

I haven't watched the clip, personally, because I can't stand more than a few seconds of Ms. Malzahn's spotlight-devouring diva routine at a time. But a few university administrators have, at least one of whom told CBS' Bruce Feldman today that the exchange will hurt her husband's chances of landing his first head-coaching gig at the collegiate level. To date, Malzahn's been most persistently connected to the pending vacancy at North Carolina. But if there's anything the Tar Heels don't need at the moment, it's loose lips on the inside.

Spectacularly Bogus Rumor of the Day. Akron fans — assuming there still are Akron fans after back-to-back 1-11 campaigns under ousted coach Rob Ianello, lousy even by Akron standards — had a brief opportunity to bask in rumors that the Zips have been in contact with disgraced Ohio State coach Jim Tressel about filling Ianello's seat, apparently under the reasoning that there is no disgrace too disgraceful to qualify a recognizable name from Akron. Alas, this match made in the most depressing conception of heaven ever was never to be:

I know, it sounds good if you're Akron. Instant credibility in a football program that has almost none. [Tressel] would recruit well, and probably steal a few of the big ones away from the big fish.

It isn't going to happen.There have been some people saying Tressel was spotted at InfoCision Stadium today. Laughable. Tressel was in his suburban Columbus home until after lunch today. And would Akron officials really have a meeting with a high-profile candidate at its stadium?

A source close to Tressel and who spoke with the former Buckeye head coach said Tressel probably will not coach again and is not going to take the Akron job. Two, when NCAA Committee on Infractions comes out with its report in December,

Tressel will probably have a "show cause" charge for a couple of years. That means any school that wants to hire him must appeal to the Committee on Infractions and justify the hiring.

The show-cause penalty alone will leave Tressel virtually unemployable for the foreseeable future in the wake of the major violations that cost him his job in Columbus earlier this year. But at least Zip fans will always have the Photoshopped sweater vest to remember the excitement by.

You can do it! If you ever wondered how you'd fare as head coach at an underachieving Big Ten middleweight — and let's face it, you have — here's your big chance.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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