Mississippi State, Joe Moorhead have officially parted ways.
Very late Thursday, multiple reports surfaced that Mississippi State was exploring the possibility of firing Joe Moorhead as its head football coach. It was suggested that the potential firing was centered on off-field issues, including an ugly fight between teammates in the run-up to the Music City Bowl. The loss to Louisville in the bowl game was cited as well.
Friday morning, it was confirmed that Moorhead is out as the Bulldogs’ coach. A short time later, MSU issued statements addressing the developments.
“In consultation with President Mark Keenum and after a thorough review and evaluation of all aspects of our football program, I have decided that a change in leadership is in the best interest of our team and university,” a statement from athletic director John Cohen began. “I want to thank Coach Moorhead for the hard work he has done with our football program. I wish Joe and his family success in the future.”
“It is clear the time has come to change the leadership of our football program,” Keenum said in his statement. “Coach Moorhead is a good man, and I have nothing but respect for him. I sincerely wish the very best for him and his wonderful family. …
“[Cohen] will be working to find a new head football coach who will demonstrably reflect our shared expectations for a consistently competitive football team that displays discipline, pride, and preparation in all facets of the program.”
The day after Christmas, it was reported that freshman Garrett Shrader, who was supposed to start the bowl game at quarterback, was injured in a post-practice scuffle with a defensive teammate. The altercation was preceded by an in-practice altercation during a contact drill.
Shrader suffered some orbital bone damage as a result of the incident.
Prior to that situation, there had been speculation that Moorhead could be two-and-done with the Bulldogs, although a lengthy meeting in late November confirmed that all of the parties involved are satisfied with the current direction of the football program. If Moorhead were to be fired without cause, according to one report, it would cost the university in the neighborhood of $2 million in the form of a buyout. Another has the number at $7 million “that can be mitigated to as little as $4 million through off-set language in his contract, assuming the coach finds other employment.”
In two years since replacing Dan Mullen, Moorhead, who had previously been connected to the opening at Rutgers, has gone 14-12 overall and 7-9 in SEC play. This season, those marks are 6-7 and 3-5. In Mullen’s last two seasons at MSU before leaving to take the Florida job in November of 2017, the Bulldogs went 14-11.