Two weeks ago Dan Mullen took over the microphone at halftime of a Florida Gators basketball game and addressed the fans. He spoke of bringing back a level of expectation to Gainesville and with that a championship caliber football team.
His boss, athletic director Scott Stricklin, had heard that before.
“There’s also something to being able to visualize it and he did the same thing at Mississippi State,” Stricklin said of Mullen’s championship promise. “The difference is at Mississippi State it hadn’t been done. When people heard it, it’s ‘oh that’s just a new coach just trying to get people fired up. He said it here, at a place where it has been done, and the headline was “Dan Mullen promises championship. I think Dan believes that is what will happen.”
The Gators have won three National Championships on the football field, two of which Mullen was offensive coordinator for. He understands the pressure to win a fourth (or fifth) quickly. At his opening press conference he remembered how fans would be unhappy when the Gators weren’t scoring more than 40 points in a win during his last stint. He remembered the pressure that eventually became too much for his boss, Urban Meyer, and he chose to come back to take on that pressure himself.
“He is not afraid to be aspirational. There are leaders who are afraid to put themselves out there because if you set a high bar and you don’t reach it you end up getting criticized,” said Stricklin. “Dan, I think his confidence is such a level that he knows the expectations here are going to be winning championships so don’t hide from it, talk about it.”
From the time he stepped off a private jet in Gainesville Mullen has looked like a kid at Disney World. You can’t wipe the smile off his face, he seemingly doesn’t sleep and is everywhere in his Jordan’s and Gator gear. He was in Tampa, making waves nationally showing up at IMG Academy in a helicopter. He’s already secured a very good recruiting class, even with National Signing Day a day away.
Florida is coming off of its second losing season in five years. The program Mullen inherited was a fraudulent house of cards that came tumbling down last October. There are pieces there for him to be successful but it may take time. It could take two or three years for Mullen to really get his players into the program and have it running as optimally as he wants it to and knows that it can. He won’t ever admit to that timeline. Dan Mullen wants to win now and he’s not afraid to let that be known.
“No. 1 Dan is really excited. He has a lot of energy,” Stricklin said of his head football coach. “I would say from even my previous time with him he always works with a pretty high level from the energy standpoint. I’ve never seen him like he is right now. He’s super excited to be a Gator.”