Dan Mullen is the Florida Gators 27th head football coach.
Florida and Mullen reached an agreement on Sunday night.
“Megan and I are very excited to get back to Gainesville and the University of Florida,” Mullen said in a statement. “I have such great memories of the championships we won during our time here and have a love for Florida. We are happy to be coming back to such a supportive administration, staff, student body and fan base, which is the premier football program in the country. We will give relentless effort in everything that we do on and off the field. Our commitment will match the passion that the Gator Nation has for this program.”
Mullen, 45, has spent the last nine years as the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, compiling a 69-46 (33-39 SEC) record. Mullen has led the Bulldogs to a bowl game in each of the last eight seasons, including this season. Prior to Mullen’s tenure the Bulldogs had been to just 13 bowl games in school history. His 69 wins rank him second in program history.
Mullen was Urban Meyer’s quarterback coach at Utah in 2003-04, where he coached the eventual NFL No. 1 overall pick, Alex Smith. Mullen followed Meyer to Florida where he was the offensive coordinator for two National Championships.
In 2008 Mullen was offered and accepted his first head-coaching job at Mississippi State. University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin was serving in his first year as a Senior Associate Athletic Director at Mississippi State and was heavily involved in the search for and hiring of Mullen. When Greg Byrne left to take the Athletic Director position at Arizona Stricklin took over at Mississippi State and had a good working relationship with Mullen, which helped lead to this hire.
“I enjoyed working with Dan. And I think he would probably say the same. Dan can be direct and I can be direct and sometimes we had direct conversations, like you would anybody that you worked with closely,” Stricklin said on October 29. “He’s done a really nice job there. And as an alum of that school, I’m proud of the job he’s done at my alma mater.”
The hire of Mullen is certainly a familiar hire for Stricklin but it also ticks off the boxes the AD laid out when he said what he was looking for in a head football coach.
“Being in this league for 25 years, when Florida has been really good, from a distance it has looked really fun and I want it to be really fun,” Stricklin said on October 29. “Our fans, they deserve it to be really fun. I want our players and student-athletes to have a lot of fun.”
All along Stricklin has been looking for an offensive minded coach, who has a track record of developing quarterbacks. Mullen has coached Smith, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and his current quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
In the immediate days after Jim McElwain was fired Mullen made the most sense for Florida. He arguably had the best résumé of any of the potential candidates. The issue came from a fan perspective about Mullen not being a big splash hire, a point that was exacerbated by Florida’s initial courtship of Chip Kelly. Stricklin, along with UF President Kent Fuchs and four members of the University Athletic Association flew to New Hampshire to meet with Kelly. The former Oregon, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers head coach spurned Florida in favor of UCLA. Florida then reportedly turned its attention to UCF head coach Scott Frost but, through representatives, told Florida he didn’t have interest. That led Florida back to Mullen, who has a proven record in the SEC, ties to Florida and Stricklin.
“I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have immediate and long-term success at the University of Florida,” Stricklin said. “Coach Mullen is one of the best offensive minds in all of college football, and has an unbelievable track record in tutoring successful quarterbacks. Coach Mullen will do a tremendous job in developing accountability and toughness through a well-coordinated strength and conditioning program. Dan will work closely with the coaching staff, academic advising staff and administrative team to give every student athlete he coaches the opportunity to grow and excel at a high level athletically, academically and socially.”