Throughout his spring speaking tour Dan Mullen was asked about bringing back the “Gator standard.”
What is the Gator standard, though?
A big part of it is winning, not just in football. The Florida Gators Track and Field team just won a National Championship the 40th in school history. So, National Championships are apart of that standard — and Mullen helped bring two of those 40 to Gainesville. He’s also part of the reason why the expectations are what they are for the football team, as he jokingly references every so often.
“I remember just as an offensive coordinator if we score 30 points by halftime, they would run down to the locker room and there were people telling me I was No. 1, different fingers,” he joked. “The standard and expectation of the program and the fan base is so high.”
Just days before he will kick off his first spring football camp Mullen was again asked what he thought the Gator standard was, jokes aside.
“I’d love us in the next four years to go 60-0 with four national titles. The 60-0 is probably the most unrealistic. Everybody views it that way. 60-0 is not the Gator standard,” Mullen said. “The Gator standard is: Did we push ourselves to be the absolute best we can be and take ourselves to become the absolute best we could be? If we do that then you’re going to have the opportunity to go win the championships that we expect as part of this program.”
That process began from almost the very first meeting with his team. Mullen explained what he and his coaching staff would expect of the young men. He warned them of the conditioning program they were about to endure and that they needed to buy in. The room full of players that had just went 4-7 didn’t know what they were in for but they listened to Mullen.
“We know Coach Mullen, his past here was good. And we see Coach Savage and his past at Mississippi State, how he developed guys, conditioning staff,” junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said. “The first two weeks was kind of hard because we didn’t know what we were getting into. Once everything got rolling after a month or so, two months or so, we all bought in.”
The goal isn’t to go 60-0. The goal is to win the SEC East. To win the SEC and to play for National Championships. Things happen, though. Holders throw a football over their head and the football bounces up perfectly into the arms of a kicker on a trick play. The Gators will lose games with Mullen as their head coach, they’ll lose more than one but it’s never going to be for a lack of heart or effort.
“I know they’re going to play hard because they’re not going to have an option. I know that they’re going to learn to go hard. I know that we’re going to be physical. I feel comfortable with that with the team by seeing the lack of resistance in what we’ve asked them to do.”
To Mullen, that’s the standard. Setting the offseason strength and conditioning goals to a level where players can’t help but get bigger, faster and stronger. Then making practices as intense and as competitive as he and the coaching staff can so that by the time the team hits the field on Saturday, the hard work is done and it’s easy.
The Gator standard is winning, Mullen knows that, he helped create the culture. Now he has another chance to embrace the expectation and raise the bar again.