Florida fires coach Dan Mullen, completing stunning fall

Dan Mullen was not able to endure one bad season in Florida.

Florida fires coach Dan Mullen, completing stunning fall

Dan Mullen was not able to endure one bad season in Florida.

Coaching the Gators is a high-stakes job.

Florida fired Mullen Sunday after he suffered his sixth loss in nine games. This was two months after Mullen lost to Alabama, the defending national champion, and one year after Mullen had the chance to play in the College Football Playoff.

Scott Stricklin, Florida's athletic director, stated that "this is a place where success should be sustained over a long time."

The shockingly quick downfall of Mullen and his not-so-surprising exit ends a turbulent two-season that saw mounting losses, public relations missteps, NCAA sanctions, and a win against Samford, which didn't seem like much to Gators fans.

Stricklin stated that he made the decision to make Sunday's game and offered Mullen the opportunity to coach the final game. However, he declined because he was afraid of being distracted.

Florida (5-6, 2-6 SEC), hosts Florida State (5-6), on Saturday. The winner will be eligible for bowl eligibility. Greg Knox, special teams coordinator and running backs coach, will be serving as interim coach.

Mullen: How did this happen so quickly?

Stricklin stated, "I don’t know." "I have thoughts, but they are not mine," Stricklin said.

Mullen was 34-15 in four seasons at Florida, which included a trip last year to the Southeastern Conference championship and three New Year's Six bowls.

The Gators were not satisfied with the results and are now looking for a coach to replace Urban Meyer, who left the Gators with two national championships.

Florida has been through Will Muschamp (28-21 in four years), Jim McElwain (22-22 over three seasons), and Mullen (21-13 in SEC play).

Stricklin stated, "We talk about competing in championships and then we talk about having an integrity-filled championship experience; Florida is a place that you have the right for that to happen."

Then he pitched potential candidates to other options in a crowded marketplace that includes LSU and Southern California seeking to fill vacancies.

"We found a wonderful university. We have a passionate fan base. We have invested heavily in our facilities. We have amazing alignment within our university hierarchy, something that isn't often mentioned. The University Athletic Association Board, Dr. Ken Fuchs (university president), and the Board of Trustees are all part of the Board of Trustees. Stricklin stated that Gator boosters board is his.

A $85 million, standalone football facility will be opened by the Gators next year. This upgrade has been years in the planning. This, along with Florida's large recruiting pool, should make Florida's largest college football job even more appealing.

Florida will likely be linked to many of the top coaches that have been speculated to be candidates at LSU or USC. This includes Oregon's Mario Cristobal and Cincinnati's Luke Fickell. Mississippi's Lane Kiffin, Penn State's James Franklin and Mississippi's Lane Kiffin. Perhaps Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma coach and former Gators assistant under Steve Spurrier, could be re-invented?

Stricklin stated that they are looking for someone with high expectations and a plan for how they will sustain those expectations over a long time. "There will be a lot competition in the marketplace, and I don't want you to reveal our criteria or prioritize right now.

Mullen's last game was a 2423 loss in overtime at Missouri on Saturday night. This highlighted Florida's weaknesses: inconsistency in quarterback play, a porous offense line, and a dearth of playmakers on both ends of the ball. It also showed that Florida is unable to win close games. In the past two seasons, seven consecutive one-possession games were dropped by the Gators.

Stricklin wanted Mullen to have every chance of turning things around, especially considering that the team was only sixth in the CFP standings a year ago. Even though he gave Mullen a raise of $7.6million in salary and an extension to his contract through 2026, it was clear that Mullen was losing the support of key boosters, top administrators and fans.

Mullen will be paid $12 million in buyouts by the Gators, spread over seven installments. A $6 million payout is expected within 30 days. Mullen will receive $1 million each July 15-2027. Six of Mullen’s assistants have expired contracts.

After a defeat at South Carolina by 40-17, Mullen fired two of his closest friends and top assistants. However, the Florida team was unable to part ways with Todd Grantham and John Hevesy, who were both defensive coordinators. The Gators gave FCS Samford 52 points in the next game, but managed to win.

Mullen's offensive skills made him one the most respected play-callers of the SEC over the past 15 years, including nine as Mississippi State's Head Coach. However, his recent problems have overshadowed his greatness.

Mullen's recruiting is the cause of his on-field problems. His strong-willed personality landed him in serious trouble last year after he decided to double down on his desire to pack Florida Field despite the pandemic.

For the first time in thirty years, Florida was placed on NCAA probation. He also received a show-cause sanction for recruiting violations. The SEC fined him and reprimanded him for his involvement in a benches-clearing match last season. He was also widely criticized for his tone-deaf comments after two losses.

Florida is now ready for a new reset.

Stricklin stated, "We're going put the resources necessary to make the right decision to get in the right person and the right structure around him or her for us to succeed." "And we are very fortunate to have some resources."

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