STARKVILLE, Miss. (WHNT) – Zach Arnett has been named the Mississippi State Bulldogs’ 35th head football coach, interim Director of Athletics Bracky Brett and President Mark Keenum announced on Thursday morning.

Arnett has served as MSU’s defensive coordinator for the last three seasons.

“Our football program has dealt with a stunning blow at the untimely passing of Coach Mike Leach,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “It is imperative that we bring stability and continuity to our team and our coaching staff as we move forward from this tragic event. I have tremendous confidence in Zach Arnett’s leadership and believe he is uniquely positioned to continue the progress Coach Leach brought to our program. He brings great drive and intensity to the task.”

Arnett agreed to a four-year contract – the maximum length allowed under Mississippi’s state law – that will pay $3 million annually, plus performance-based incentives.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone at Mississippi State, especially for our football student-athletes and staff,” Brett said. “As we continue to help each individual work through the sorrow that they are feeling following the passing of Coach Leach, we felt that it was crucial to provide the team with a proven leader who will be able to help them continue to navigate through these trying times and into the future. That leader is Zach Arnett. He has been a pillar of support for everyone within the program through this difficult time and during his time in Starkville. He is a tremendous, young coach who understands the culture of Mississippi State and will continue to elevate it in this new role.”

Prior to MSU, Arnett spent the previous nine seasons at San Diego State under the mentorship of one of the game’s great defensive minds in former Aztecs head coach Rocky Long. His coaching career began as a defensive graduate assistant in 2011 before being elevated to linebackers coach in 2014 and promoted to defensive coordinator in 2018.

“I’m honored that Bracky Brett and Dr. Keenum have the faith in me to lead our program,” Arnett said. “This is an extremely challenging time for both me and everyone associated with Mississippi State football. No one can ever replace Coach Leach and the impact he had on MSU and all of college football. This team is full of strong, resilient young men and we are committed to continuing to build on the foundation Coach Leach laid and continue to honor his legacy.

The Bulldogs will finish their season against Illinois on January 2 in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa.