There was a recurring theme during Dan Mullen’s introductory news conference Monday.
He mentioned it multiple times.
And it doesn’t just apply to the style of play he wants the Gators to embrace on the field. Florida’s new coach is demanding relentless effort in everything the players do, from lifting weights, to posting grades, to how they handle themselves on campus and around the community.
“We’re going to be a team that competes in everything we do,” Mullen said. “And you’d better take that seriously and making sure that we are of that mindset that we’re competing as much in the classroom as we are going to compete on the field and we’re just going to be competitors in life.”
Mullen met with the players shortly after his arrival in Gainesville on Monday. The first thing he addressed was academics.
“Very, very simple of what to expect. No. 1, I started with academics,” he said. “Classes end next week and then we have final exams and there’s a certain standard that I expect in the classroom. I explained to them that being a champion is not a sometimes thing. It’s a way of life. It’s who you are, and that gets to competing.
“I don’t care if you’re competing out there on the football field, you’re competing in the weight room, you’re competing in conditioning, but you know, when you walk in the classroom, they also put a number on the top of that test and you compete. Someone wins and someone loses.”
Mullen said the players are going to have to win in the classroom before they have a chance to do it on the field.
Academics and the results of the offseason conditioning program (which Mullen said is probably going to be something they have never even experienced in their life before) will be evaluated before Mullen decides how the Gators line up and start to compete in the spring.
“I promised them, they will earn my respect before they are able to put on that uniform and go represent our university out there on that football field,” Mullen said. “That is very, very important to me and that’s going to be done through academics and through the effort they start giving in the off-season, and everyone has a clean slate to go start over and show what they can be.
“Everybody, in my book, has a clean slate to go prove themselves. I told the team, I chose them. They didn’t choose me; I chose them. I guaranteed them that I will earn their respect.”
As for behavior off the field, Mullen said he’s expecting relentless effort there, too.
Relentless effort to do the right thing.
“I will always investigate everything thoroughly and handle discipline pretty severely because I think it’s important for our team to understand the standards and expectations of this team,” he said. “I told Dr. (Kent) Fuchs I’m going to give him and the Gator Nation a team that they can be proud of both on and off the field.
“That’s how we carry ourselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not just on Saturdays. You have a great responsibility when you’re going to be a member of this football program and it carries beyond this field and it might be a greater responsibility than the regular student body has.
“You’re living under different expectations and different standards than other people, but that’s part of the responsibility of wearing that uniform and being a part of this program.”
Mullen is inheriting one off-the-field issue — the nine players still under suspension for their involvement in credit card fraud. Seven of the players have gone through the legal process and have accepted pre-trial intervention.
But if and when they are allowed to rejoin the team will be determined by the university.
In dealing with the situation, Mullen is going to get an assist from athletic director Scott Stricklin.
“I’ll be a part of the conversation,” Stricklin said. “They have the judicial thing going through on campus. I’ll be a part of that conversation. Dan, it’s kind of been dropped in his lap. We’ll work well together on this.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.