Mississippi State fires football coach after one season

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State football fired football coach Zach Arnett on Monday.

Arnett was in his first full season as coach leading the Bulldogs to a 4-6 record and 1-6 in the SEC. He finishes with a 5-6 record.

Senior offensive analyst Greg Knox will serve as interim head coach for the final two games of the season.

‘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,’ athletic director Zac Selmon said in a school release. ‘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.’

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Arnett was promoted from defensive coordinator in December after the death of Mike Leach. Arnett, who was the lowest-paid coach in the SEC this year, led Mississippi State to a ReliaQuest Bowl win against Illinois shortly after Leach’s death before revamping the staff ahead of this season.

 ‘Zach took on an unprecedented and challenging situation last December,’ Selmon said. ‘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.’

Arnett’s buyout requires Mississippi State to pay 50% of the remaining $9 million on his contract, according to documents the Clarion Ledger acquired through a public records request.

However, if he gets another coaching job, his salary at the next stop would erase from the buyout. For example, if he earns an annual salary of $1.5 million at his next job, Mississippi State wouldn’t have to pay him.

‘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,’ school president Mark 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.’

MSU opened its season with back-to-back wins against Southeastern Louisiana and Arizona. Since then, Mississippi State has lost five of seven − with the lone wins coming against Western Michigan and Arkansas. The Bulldogs’ latest loss came Saturday in a blowout at Texas A&M.

Arnett, a New Mexico native, played linebacker from 2005-08 while staying in-state to play for the University of New Mexico. He joined San Diego State’s staff in 2011 as a graduate assistant where he was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator. In 2020, he was hired as Syracuse’s defensive coordinator. However, he left to join Leach’s staff at MSU within two weeks.

Arnett’s promotion to head coach came a month before Selmon was hired as athletics director.

Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Follow him on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, @skrajisnik3.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY