Mississippi State has decided to move on from head coach Zach Arnett before the conclusion of his first season on the job.
The school announced Monday morning that Arnett has been fired. The Bulldogs fell to 4-6 following a 51-10 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. It marked the team’s third consecutive loss as MSU is just 1-6 in SEC play this season.
Arnett, 37, was MSU’s defensive coordinator for three seasons and was promoted to head coach following the sudden death of Mike Leach. Following Leach’s death, Arnett led the Bulldogs to a victory over Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl.
Less than a month after Arnett’s promotion, Zac Selmon was hired as athletic director. Not even a year later, Selmon decided to make a change and dismissed Arnett after only 10 games of his first full-time season as head coach. Greg Knox, a senior offensive analyst for the Bulldogs, will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
Mississippi State has been playing without longtime starting quarterback Will Rogers for the past month. MSU won its first game without him to improve to 4-3 on the year, but has since lost three straight — all by double-digit margins.
In a statement, Selmon said that the "progress and on-field results" have not met "the standard required for Mississippi State to achieve the level of success we need and expect."
"As part of my thorough and continued evaluation, I have determined that a change in leadership is necessary to move our football program forward and position it for the highest level of success," Selmon said 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.
"Zach took on an unprecedented and challenging situation last December. He provided the football program much needed leadership and stability during a tragic time. There is no question that he has made a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes during his time here. We are grateful for his contributions to Mississippi State and wish him the very best both personally and professionally.”
Added Mississippi State president Mark Keenum:
"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. 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.
"I want to sincerely thank Zach Arnett for his hard work and service to the university and our football program. I will be forever grateful to Zach for how he stepped up after the untimely death of head coach Mike Leach. We asked him in those difficult hours to lead our team, protect our Top 25 recruiting class, and take us to a ReliaQuest Bowl victory over Illinois. Zach accomplished those things, and our fans should respect and appreciate him for that tremendous service to MSU. All of us at Mississippi State wish Zach and his wonderful family the very best. I know that he will go on to enjoy an outstanding career in coaching."
The Bulldogs will return to action on Saturday vs. Southern Miss before concluding the season with the annual Egg Bowl rivalry vs. Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. Both games will be played at home in Starkville. If MSU can win those games, it will mark the 14th consecutive season of bowl eligibility for the program.
Who could be next at Mississippi State?
Who could be next in Starkville? Yahoo Sports' Ross Dellenger pointed to several sitting head coaches as potential targets in the school's upcoming coaching search.
Some names to ponder for the opening at Mississippi State: Jamey Chadwell, Lance Leipold, Willie Fritz, Tom Herman, Jon Sumrall, Jeff Lebby and Rhett Lashlee.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 13, 2023
MSU has been a bit of a revolving door since Dan Mullen departed for Florida in 2017 following a nine-year run in Starkville. Joe Moorhead was dismissed after two seasons, leading to the hire of Leach, the former Texas Tech and Washington State coach.
Leach went 19-17 overall and 11-15 in SEC play before his sudden death on Dec. 12, 2022, at age 61. And now Arnett, Leach's defensive coordinator, has been pushed out.