Placing Zach Arnett Among 1st-Year Miss. State Coaches

Placing Zach Arnett Among 1st-Year Miss. State Coaches
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

It’s been a rocky start to the Zach Arnett era in Starkville, with the Mississippi State Bulldogs grinding their way so far to a 4-5 record, 1-5 in SEC play. Maybe a good thing for Bulldogs fans that Mississippi sports betting has not expanded to mobile wagering yet.

The first year under Arnett has had highs — a thrilling 31-24 overtime win at home over Arizona in Week 2 and a 7-3 victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville, the team’s lone SEC win of the year.

It’s also had blowouts at the hands of LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky. Those teams combined to outscore the Bulldogs, 132-47, and push them to the bottom of the SEC West standings (in a tie with Arkansas).

Ahead of the Bulldogs’ Saturday evening showdown in College Station against Texas A&M, for which oddsmakers from ESPN Bet have Mississippi State as a 19-point underdog, broke down where Arnett ranks among first year coaches in school history. The list dates back to the beginning of the SEC.

First Seasons for Mississippi State Coaches

2023Zach Arnett4-5
2020Mike Leach4-7
2018Joe Moorhead8-5
2009Dan Mullen5-7
2004Sylvester Croom3-8
1991Jackie Sherrill7-5
1986Rockey Felker6-5
1979Emory Bellard3-8
1973Bob Tyler4-5-2
1967Charles Shira1-9
1962Paul Davis3-6
1956Wade Walker4-6
1954Darrell Royal6-4
1952Murray Warmath5-4
1949Slick Morton0-8-1
1940Allyn McKeen8-2
1935Ralph Sasse8-3
1933Ross McKechnie3-6-1


Slotting Arnett Among 1st-Year Coaches

So far, Arnett’s .444 win percentage actually ranks just ahead of the school’s average for first-year coaches since the school joined the SEC in 1933. The group has posted a .434 aggregate over the decades.

The best performances by first-year coaches were by Allyn McKeen in 1940 (8-2) and Ralph Sasse in 1935 (8-3). More recently, Joe Moorhead went 8-5 during his first year in Starkville in 2018.

The only other coaches to post records of .500 or better during the timeframe were Jackie Sherill in 1991 (7-5), Rockey Felker in 1986 (6-5), Darrell Royal in 1954 (6-4), Murray Warmath in 1952 (5-4), as well as McKeen and Sasse.

Conversely, the worst performances by first-year Mississippi State coaches were by Arhtur “Slick” Morton in 1949 (0-8-1) and Charles Shira in 1967 (1-9). Four other coaches had three-win campaigns in their first seasons with the program.

All in all, Arnett’s 4-5 start in Starkville puts him just above the average win percentage of a first-year coach at Mississippi State, with games against Texas A&M, Southern Miss and Ole Miss on the schedule.

Last year chronicled the career of Mike Leach, Arnett’s predecessor.



Christopher Boan is a writer at specializing in covering state issues. He has covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.