Mullen welcomes challenge of high Florida expectations

Dan Mullen, the new head football coach at the University of Florida, is introduced to the media and handful of former players and other officials during a news conference Monday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mullen was hired Sunday. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

As it turns out, Dan Mullen has been Gator a lot longer than anybody knew.

Growing up in New Hampshire, he became a big Steve Spurrier and Florida football fan watching the Gators play on television.

“Always grew up a huge (Spurrier) fan and was always a huge Florida Gator fan,” Mullen said. “I grew up in New Hampshire so it’s snowing and freezing cold outside, and there’s Coach Spurrier with his visor on in the sunshine, and it’s beautiful and what am I doing here in New Hampshire.”

Well, Mullen is no longer in New Hampshire, he’s in Gainesville. And he’s no longer just a Gator, he’s the head Gator — Florida’s new head football coach.

On Monday, he walked into his new office for the first time and sat down at what he calls his dream job.

“I sat down with an enormous smile on my face, and couldn’t be happier to be here,” Mullen said. “But I also sat down understanding the enormous responsibility of the people that have sat in that chair before me and the standard that they have set.

“To have the opportunity to live that dream is just something special. Makes it pretty easy for me to get up every morning and completely commit myself to the success of this program because I’m here living my dream.”

Mullen’s dream job comes with a dreamy contract — six years for $36 million, making him the second-highest paid coach in the SEC behind Alabama’s Nick Saban, who is the highest paid coach in college football at just over $11 million a year. UF has to pay Mullen $12 million if he is fired without cause. If Mullen leaves for another job his buyout is $2 million.

Mullen, 45, knows what he’s getting into, having been the offensive coordinator at UF for four years under Urban Meyer. He understands Florida. He understands the job and the demands that come with it.

At his introductory news conference Monday, Mullen energetically embraced all things Gator, the good and the difficult:

Spurrier and the history and tradition. The high expectations. The challenge of restoring the offense and returning UF to a top-10 program. Former players. The demanding fan base.

“I can promise you that I will give relentless effort in everything I do to make sure that we return the football program to a national championship level,” Mullen said. “That’s what it’s all about for us here is to be judged and win championships at the University of Florida and I’m committed to doing that.”

One of the first people he mentioned Monday was Spurrier, who was in attendance with his wife Jerri. Mullen said Spurrier is a great resource and he’s going to tap into that resource often.

“It’s unbelievable to be here to think that I’m carrying on or I’m tasked with the responsibility of carrying on with the traditions that he has started,” Mullen said. “I got to go up in his office today and he’s got the computer open and he’s got game film up. I love ball and he loves ball. So I’m sure we’ll have some really interesting ball decisions in there talking football.”

When they do talk, it will probably be about offense, drawing up plays and scoring points.

Like Spurrier, Mullen is known for his productive offenses. That’s one of the main reasons he’s here, to make the Gators effective and entertaining on offense again.

Mullen gets it.

“We’re going to try to go score some points,” he said. “Trust me, I know how important offense is here. I’ve been here and know what that’s all about, and I know everybody likes to score some points.

“And I’ll be honest with you, Coach Spurrier might argue with me; I don’t know if there’s anyone in this room who likes scoring points more than me, you know what I mean. I love scoring points. Right. We can score a hundred. I’ll keep going. I love scoring points. That’s fun.”

Mullen met with his players Monday afternoon, but has not had a chance yet to evaluate the talent he is inheriting. He said the offense will be built around the skill set of the players.

“We are going to put our guys in the position to do what they do best and put them in a position to be successful,” he said. “That’s the responsibility of the coaches as we come up schematically and put plans together.

“We’ll base ourselves, obviously, out of a spread offense, which is something I believe in. But my definition of a spread offense might be different than others.

“I want to spread the field that makes sure you defend sideline-to-sideline the entire field, and I want to make sure you defend all 11 guys that are out on the field and I want to put as much pressure on the defense as possible.”

During the Gators’ current eight-year offensive slump, inconsistent quarterback play has been a major contributor. One of Mullen’s biggest priorities will be to identify and develop a quarterback who can effectively run his offense.

Mullen has a history of developing quarterbacks, including Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow.

“I have a different way of maybe looking at quarterbacks and trying to find them,” he said. “If you want to put it in one word, it’s winners. Because every quarterback that I’ve had, they are a winner.

“If you want to take Alex Smith out of the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s probably running a corporation somewhere or he’s a doctor or a lawyer. If you want to describe Tim Tebow in a word, a lot of people would pick winner.

“Chris Leak was a winner here for us. Dak Prescott’s is a winner. And it’s not just at football. That’s their personalities at life; that whatever they are going to do, they are going to be successful.”

As for the Gators’ personality overall, Mullen said this is a team that will play with relentless effort.

“Every Saturday when you walk into The Swamp, or you turn us on on the road, you will see a team that plays with relentless effort from the first snap to the last,” Mullen said. “A team that plays with a passion for the game of football in everything that they do. Whether the 11 guys are on the field or the guy standing behind them on the sidelines, there will be an energy and an excitement and a passion about this team and a demand of relentless effort.

“My expectation is to be the hardest-playing team in the country. I don’t know if we’ll be the biggest. I don’t know if we’ll be the fastest. Hopefully some years we’re both. But we will be the hardest-playing team every single Saturday when we take the field, and that’s something I’m going to demand of our players.”

Mullen will go right to work on recruiting and putting together a coaching staff. He said his coordinators could be named in the next few weeks, but that his entire staff probably won’t be finalized until the first of January.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or Also check out Andreu’s blog at


  1. Very savvy, well-received presser. Mullen’s references to SOS, the Moses of Gator FB, were genuine, and a smart tone of uniting and healing Gator Nation. That he did not mention Coach Chest Pain-Family Time was also smarT, showing his understanding of the raw feelings and the past 8 years of decay since he left. He needs time, patience, and loyalty from Gator Nation, but I think Coach Mullen is going to do a great job. Go Gators!

    • Agree, Pat. Your reference to SOS as the Moses Gator reminded me that after all he did for Israel in getting them to the promised land, he wasn’t allowed in himself. I mean that as I always expected to see him come back, when he finally did, as the AD. But I will say this now….we’ve got a good one in Stricklin and any capacity SOS fills here will be valuable to our new HC. Glad to hear that Mullen plans on using that resource! Mac sure could have benefited from it, but certainly didn’t value it as much as DM apparently does.

      • I was so happy to hear him say that about Spurrier, just the opposite of McElwain. Mc said something similar but in reality he didnt want to hear from Steve. So glad to hear it from Mullen, a great attitude. He appears to have the same goals as us, mre conditioning, play hard, score points have a great defense!

      • I’m an older Gator, so I concur with the description of Ray Graves as Moses! Moses greatest attribute was his reliance on his brother Aaron, who was a brilliant tactician. With that, I’m happy to refer to SOS as the Aaron of Gator football. It’s great to hear that Mullen is not only not intimidated by Spurrier being in the building, but embraces the chance to utilize him. That is “Gator Nation” at its best. BTW, my wife is a Gator but went to Miss. State as a freshman (still has her dang cowbell) and loves Mullen and agrees; let’s go Gators!

      • Ludimeister; Good comparison. Unlike his colleagues, Joshua had no fear of going into the land of the “giants” and doing battle. If Mullen spent 9 years doing battle with Bama, LSU, Auburn, TA&M and the convicted recruiting cheater Ole Miss, I think this comparison will apply to him as well! I am looking forward to the coming years of good Gator football.

  2. We should seeing more of Tebow now that DM is our HC. Like to see if DM can reel back at least one (if not all three) players who decommitted. We need this top 10 recruiting class to help take us to the next level (which at this point is out of the basement and up to the 1st floor). If it is legal to do so, ask SS to help coach up the QBs. Otherwise, I am sure DM can accomplish this with no problem. The Gators have had two golden eras – 1st under Spurrier and 2nd under Meyer/Mullen. Mullen is wise to confer with and involve Spurrier (foolish not to take advantage of such an invaluable resource). GO GATORS!!!

  3. i don’t get the praise for aaron, i thought he was the golden calf guy, …
    I’m for lowering expectations for a while… i prefer the i know the civil war analogy, reading history teaches us a lesser known general named George Thomas from Virginia may have been the difference maker for the Yankees. no one liked him because he was so patient, and not of the best political circumstance, but at crucial spots like chattanooga and Nashville he just destroyed the rebel army, that had one of my ancestors fighting for it btw. plus when things weren’t fun at Chickamauga he was the rock. so I’m for patience and of course striking when the time is right, sorry everyone. i say it will win more than flash and dash easily

    • Since you’re onto the War, Please explain why Lincoln presided over his own slave states during the entire war, thru the day of his death 5 days after the war. His Emancipation Proclamation did not free his own slaves. Look it up. Then tell us all it was all about slavery. My ancestors were proud Confederates, and their only cause was defending their land and country. They were fighting because they were being invaded and their cities, towns, stores and farms were being destroyed. I am very proud of them.

      • “Please explain why Lincoln presided over his own slave states during the entire war…”

        Here’s what I found: The so-called “Border States (Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, fifty counties of Virginia (what is now West Virginia), remained in the Union, but all contributed volunteers to the Confederacy.

        So if those states were not invaded, for what do you supposed they sent volunteers to the Confederacy? Inquiring minds want to know.

  4. Well so much for what coach you like. I think Mullen is a serviceable coach. Remains to be seen if he can develope a championship caliber team. Two things need to happen, fans need to stay out of his way, and Bull Gators need stay out of his way and let him run his team. Starting with Qbs, The seasons with Driskel comes to mind, vs Brissette, Tyler Murphy, and when the wheels fell off even Treon Harris, what influence the coach to keep him in when everyone other than most gators fans knew he should’ve been benched. (Good Driskel got an opportunity to try pro). Recent Frank’s. Toney should have been considered qb, raw but a play maker and I believe he would have developed. As I remember Frank’s 1st spring game 3 consecutive int’s. Once again friends fans from other team wondered why Frank’s was the chosen one, was there outside influence? So I say let Mullen run his team and stay out of his way.

    • That definitely needs to happen, Derick. We don’t want to become Texas, and that’s why the wheels fell off there. And will again, if Herman doesn’t start winning big before he has the chance to. As far as Toney goes, if the new HBC wants a dual threat QB and pronto, he’s the ticket. No, I haven’t seen him pass, but people who have tell me the kid is just as good there as he is on the ground. I get the feeling that Mullen (oh hell, I know it) is a lot more innovative and creative than our last two HCs, and by a big margin.

  5. Until or unless Justin Fields actually signs with Georgia, I hope Coach Mullen will make it known that Fields would be more than welcome here. He would be the perfect candidate to run Mullen’s spread offense.