Last August nine Florida Gators were indefinitely suspended prior to the football season. Their involvement in a credit card investigation led to a lost year for all nine but didn’t end the Gator careers four Ventrell Miller, Jordan Scarlett, James Houston and Rick Wells.
The other five players involved have all left Florida and transferred to other schools, while Antonio Callaway declared early for the NFL Draft.
When Dan Mullen was hired at Florida he was thrown into this predicament, so a lot of the decisions that were ahead fell on Athletic Director Scott Stricklin’s desk. The legal process needed to play out before Stricklin could do anything. When the legal process played out and the players were cleared by the school Stricklin started his own process.
“There were obviously several processes outside our realm that had to play out. We were able to get information from those processes to use and make the determination and then we looked at every case from an individual basis,” Stricklin said. “Then we had some stuff that had nothing to do with that particular situation. How did these people handle themselves when they were suspended? Did they go to class? How did they do academically? Did they go to study hall? Did they take care of their responsibilities and carry themselves in a way that seems like they’re somebody that wants to do right and be a productive part of our program.”
Stricklin met with teachers and academic advisors to get a sense of how each player handled his suspension. Each player was looked at on his own merit and how he accepted responsibility for his reality and that he created it.
“The individuals that are back are the ones that I believe deserve that opportunity. To a man they will tell you that they made a mistake and in life it’s how you respond to mistakes a lot of times that kind of determine what you’re made out of. So I think those young men have a great opportunity and I think they’ll take advantage of it.”
When Mullen was first hired Stricklin didn’t want to heave the responsibility of dealing with the situation on the new head coach but that didn’t mean Mullen had no involvement. This is, after all, his football team and Stricklin wanted Mullen to be involved and valued his judgment.
“I wanted him to give me a sense after meeting them if he thought they would be good for the program. One of Dan’s little things is, real strengths is his ability to hold people accountable. Typically, in my experience with him, he can tell in real short order if there’s a person he feels will be able to do what he needs them to do from a program perspective.”