Florida fires coach Dan Mullen with stunning fall

A bad season in Florida was one too many for Dan Mullen.

The standard of success when it comes to coaching the Gators is about as high as it can get in college football.

Florida sacked Mullen on Sunday, a day after his sixth loss in nine games, two months after the Gators faced off against defending national champion Alabama and a year after getting the chance to make the college football playoffs.

“This is a place where you should have a high level of success over a long period of time,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said.

Mullen’s incredibly rapid downfall and not-so-surprising departure put an end to two tumultuous seasons that included mounting losses, numerous public relations missteps, NCAA sanctions and a win over Lower Division Samford that didn’t appear to be. much to celebrate for Gators fans.

Stricklin said he made the decision on Sunday morning and offered Mullen the chance to coach the team’s final game, but declined for fear of being a distraction.

Florida (5-6, 2-6 SEC) welcomes rival Florida State (5-6) on Saturday, with the winner becoming bowl eligible. Special teams coordinator and running backs coach Greg Knox will act as interim coach.

How did it all go so wrong so quickly for Mullen?

“I don’t know,” Stricklin said. “I have a few ideas, but I’ll keep them to myself.”

Mullen finished 34-15 in four seasons in Florida, including a trip to the Southeastern Conference Championship game last year and three New Years balls.

That wasn’t enough, and the Gators are looking for a coach for the fourth time since Urban Meyer left with two national titles to his credit after the 2010 season.

Since then, Florida have faced Will Muschamp (28-21 in four years), Jim McElwain (22-12 in three seasons) and now Mullen, who was 21-13 in the SEC.

“We’re talking about competing for championships and we’re talking about having a championship experience with integrity; Florida is a place you have every right to aspire to, ”Stricklin said.

He then made a presentation to potential candidates who might have other options in a crowded market that includes LSU and Southern California looking to fill vacancies.

“We have a great university. We have an incredibly passionate fan base. We have invested a lot in the facilities. One thing that isn’t talked about a lot is that we have an incredible alignment within our college hierarchy. You know, from the board, (president of the university) Dr. Ken Fuchs, myself, the board of the University Athletic Association. Board of Gator boosters, ”Stricklin said.

The Gators opened an $ 85 million free-standing football facility next year, an upgrade that has gone on for years. That and being surrounded by Florida’s fertile recruiting pool should make the Sunshine State’s biggest college football job even more appealing.

Florida is likely to be linked to many of the top coaches who have been considered LSU and USC candidates before, including Mario Cristobal of Oregon, Luke Fickell of Cincinnati, James Franklin of Penn State, Lane Kiffin of Mississippi. and Billy Napier of Louisiana. What about making former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, a former Gators assistant under Steve Spurrier, another run?

“We want someone who has high expectations and who has a plan to keep them going for a long time,” Stricklin said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition in the market and I really don’t want to share our criteria or what we’re going to prioritize right now.”

Mullen’s last game was a 24-23 overtime loss to Missouri on Saturday night that highlighted Florida’s flaws: inconsistent quarterback play, a porous offensive line, a lack of playmakers on both sides. of the ball and an inability to win close matches. The Gators have lost seven straight games to one possession, all in the past two seasons.

Stricklin wanted to give Mullen every chance to turn the tide – especially as the team were placed sixth in the CFP standings just a year ago. He even rewarded Mullen with a $ 7.6 million pay rise this year and a contract extension to 2026 in the offseason – but it became clear that Mullen was losing support from top administrators, top boosters. and fans.

The Gators will pay Mullen a $ 12 million buyout in seven installments, with a $ 6 million payout within 30 days. Mullen will then receive $ 1 million every July 15 until 2027. Six of Mullen’s assistants have expiring contracts.

Mullen sacked two close friends and his best assistants following a 40-17 in South Carolina earlier this month, but parted ways with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and running game coordinator John Hevesy n hasn’t done much to get Florida back on track. The Gators gave FCS Samford 52 points the following game, but managed to rally for a win.

Mullen’s offensive sense has made him one of the SEC’s top players for the past 15 years – nine of which as Mississippi State Head Coach, the rest at Gainesville – but his recent troubles have eclipsed all his prowess.

Recruiting Mullen was the root of his problems on the pitch and his dogged manners put him in hot water last year after stepping up to want to pack Florida Field despite the pandemic.

He placed Florida on NCAA probation for the first time in 30 years and received a show cause penalty for recruiting infractions. He was fined and reprimanded by the SEC for his role in a bench cleanup fight last season and has been widely criticized for his muted comments following two losses.

Florida is now ready for another reset.

“We’re going to put in the resources to make the right decision to recruit the right person and the right structure around that person for us to be successful,” Stricklin said. “And we are very fortunate to be in a place where we have resources.”

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