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Mississippi State fires Zach Arnett as head coach in 1st season after succeeding the late Mike Leach

Mississippi State fires head coach Zach Arnett after 5-6 record, promoting Greg Knox as interim coach. Search for new coach underway.

Mississippi State made the decision to terminate Zach Arnett from his position as head coach on Monday, marking the end of his tenure after less than a year. Arnett took over as head coach following the tragic passing of Mike Leach due to a heart issue. The decision to relieve Arnett of his duties comes after a 5-6 record, with a 4-6 mark this season, leaving the program tied for last in the Southeastern Conference West Division at 1-6.

Following Arnett's departure, senior offensive analyst Greg Knox, a seasoned coach with 28 years of experience in the SEC, will step in as the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2023 season. The university announced this decision, with games remaining against Southern Mississippi and rival Mississippi.

Arnett, 37, was in the first year of a four-year contract that paid $3 million annually plus incentives, the maximum allowed under Mississippi state law. He began the season as the SEC's youngest head coach and the first of Hispanic descent in league history. Despite his commitment to maintaining intensity, the team faced challenges with a front-loaded schedule that included ranked opponents and the injury of record-setting quarterback Will Rogers.

Athletics director Zac Selmon stated that a change in leadership was necessary for the football program to move forward and position it for the highest level of success. While expressing respect for Arnett's efforts, Selmon emphasized that the on-field results did not meet expectations.

At an afternoon news conference, Selmon announced that Arnett's coaching staff would remain in place for the rest of the season. The players were informed of the decision on Monday morning. Selmon also mentioned that a search firm would be utilized to find the next head coach, ensuring a thorough process to identify the best fit for Mississippi State.

Despite the shocking nature of in-season firings, the upcoming signing period has prompted schools to take a more aggressive approach to hiring coaches. This was evident in Mississippi State's quick promotion of Arnett to interim coach and then head coach after Leach's passing to maintain continuity within the program and convey stability on the recruiting trail.

Selmon acknowledged the challenging circumstances Arnett faced in taking over the Bulldogs after Leach's death. He recognized Arnett's positive impact on the student-athletes and expressed gratitude for his contributions to Mississippi State.

Following several seasons of high-octane offense under Leach, the Bulldogs transitioned to a different offensive scheme, which has not been as successful. They rank last in the SEC in scoring and next to last in total offense. The team's recent performances have been subpar, particularly in a 51-10 loss to Texas A&M.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have also faced challenges, ranking 10th in the league in yards allowed per game. Despite these difficulties, Arnett guided the Bulldogs to a bowl victory last season, showcasing his impact as defensive coordinator.

As Knox takes over as interim coach, he emphasized the importance of being himself and maintaining consistency for the players. With his experience in leading the Bulldogs to previous bowl victories, Knox's leadership will be crucial as the team navigates the remainder of the season.

In conclusion, Mississippi State's decision to part ways with Arnett reflects the university's commitment to achieving success in its football program. The search for a new head coach will be a thorough and deliberate process, ensuring that the best person is selected to lead the team. As the Bulldogs move forward, Knox's leadership will provide stability and guidance for the players during this transition period.

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