On a breezy Tuesday night, new Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen standing at a podium with multi-million dollar yachts in the background spoke to 500 raucous members of the Tampa Gator Club at the Tampa Yacht Club.
A group, that in previous years would have been generous to say had half that number, came dressed in every combination of orange and blue and there was a buzz that Gator Nation had not had in years and a level of excitement among fans.
But, beyond just excitement and comfort from fans, there is a comfort in Dan Mullen and his passion and confidence.
Mullen opined in a media session before the 6:30 event, that he “understands and embraces” expectations and that nobody has higher expectations in his team’s performance than he does. He acknowledges that there are “advantages in being comfortable” with Gainesville already and that because he knows what to expect, he knows what to work on.
And while, due to NCAA regulations, he is not allowed to be around the team much in the offseason, “off-season head coach” Nick Savage has the team making “tremendous strength gains”. Mullen mentioned, that he loves the attitude that the players have attacked the off-season with and that he loves the buy-in that the players have had toward Mullen. He reminds us that his confidence in their and his ability wears off on players mentioning that he wants his players to know that he wakes up every morning to make this program better.
Mullen does hold off announcing expectations too soon in a variety of different questions saying, “we haven’t stepped on the practice field yet.” And while he again mentions “tremendous strength gains”, Mullen is slow to give much of an opinion on Feleipe Franks, other than “we have some strong arms in the quarterback room”, but is hesitant to go much further because “he doesn’t know what players were asked to do” and that everybody will be evaluated on the practice field.
The crowd becomes increasingly excited when Mullen mentions that Florida has a “national brand” and that no school can offer the mix of academics and excitement of the fan base with the expectation of a National Championship.
He drives that energy further, by putting the onus back on fans to make sure that they are packing the stadium.
“Recruits want to go to school that sells out.”
With that excitement, Mullen moved on to everybody’s favorite topic – uniforms.
Despite the plea from a very experienced Gators fan, “Are we going to wear white pants, blue jerseys, and orange helmets at home? Please. Those green things are terrible.”
Mullen, to a few jeers and a few cheers responded over the next few minutes, “I’m with you on the green thing (jerseys). I looked at the TV and was like “what is that?”, but I’m not covering kickoff. It makes the kids run faster, I’m all for it.” He continued, “We might get some crazy uniform combinations, because kids love crazy uniform combinations.”
And finally, he dropped the announcement that many Gators fans have been either patiently waiting for or hopefully avoiding, “we will have a black uniform combination at some point.”
Mullen ended the evening trying to impart some words of wisdom, and mentioned why he coaches. Mullen asked the crowd to remember just one thing, “make a positive impact on other people’s lives.”
Despite all this, the loudest applause Mullen got all night was at the beginning when he proudly stated, “I am the biggest Gators fan in the history of Gators fans.”