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Dan Mullen fired as Florida Gators football coach

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A year away from leading Florida to the SEC championship game and playing eventual Alabama national champions as close as anyone else, Dan Mullen was fired as the Gators football coach on Sunday.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said he woke up Sunday morning after only a few hours of sleep after coming back from the team’s 24-23 overtime loss in Missouri, and he was sure something was up. had to change. It was the team’s fourth consecutive loss to a Power 5 opponent. Dating back to the last three games of the 2020 season, the Gators are 2-9 against Power 5 opponents.

Mullen was offered the chance to coach the regular season finale against Florida State on Saturday, according to Stricklin, but turned it down because he didn’t want to be a distraction. Assistant coach Greg Knox has been named interim head coach.

Mullen was 34-15 in four seasons in Florida. His replacement will become the Gators’ fourth head coach in eight seasons.

Stricklin acknowledged the fact that each of the Gators’ past three coaches had some tangible success, with Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain and Mullen all either reaching the SEC championship game or playing in a BCS bowl game.

“The challenge was that we couldn’t keep it up,” Stricklin said. “You really need to have a good structure and culture to maintain a high level over a long period of time, and that’s what we need to focus on going forward.”

Stricklin made a point to say that he still believes Mullen, 49, is a quality football coach. If he counts his nine seasons as a Mississippi state coach, Mullen’s overall record is 103-61.

“I think on the attacking side of the ball he is as good as anyone in football be it pro or college and I think Dan will have other opportunities to go out and coach football and I think that he will succeed in that.” Stricklin said. “But you know, this is a place where you have to have a high level of sustained success over a consistent period of time. And to do that, you have to have a lot of little things in place. People look at losses as a reason to get rid of a coach, but often the losses for things not going well on the field are symptoms of other problems.

“I’m not going to get into that because I think that’s not fair to everyone involved. But there are a lot of little things that you had to pay attention to. And we have a chance here to get someone who can really focus on those things to concentrate.”

Stricklin said he had “thoughts” about how things fell apart so quickly. It had only been five months since he and Mullen agreed a contract extension and increase. But whatever those issues were in causing such a dramatic change, Stricklin said, “I’m going to keep that one to myself.”

Mullen thanked the university and the fans “for the honor of being your head football coach” in a statement on social media later Sunday.

Stricklin said there is no timetable for finding Mullen’s replacement. He declined to say whether the Gators will use a search agency. Asked what kind of candidates they’ll be looking for, he declined to go into detail, other than seeking someone “who has high hopes.”

“There’s going to be a lot of competition in the market and I really don’t want to share what our criteria are or what we’re going to prioritize,” Stricklin said.

Florida isn’t the only major Power 5 program seeking a head coach. USC, LSU, Washington, Virginia Tech and TCU are among the teams with openings.

Still, Stricklin said the decision to fire Mullen with one week left in the regular season was not affected by how the coaching market has heated up in recent weeks.

“The process that other schools are going through really doesn’t affect what we have to do at the University of Florida,” he said.

Louisiana coach Billy Napier, who has turned down several SEC coaching opportunities in recent years, is among the top Florida contenders, sources told ESPN. Napier also tops Virginia Tech’s list.

Stricklin praised Florida’s history of success, as well as alignment at the administrative level. Unlike some schools that have administrators trying to influence decisions, a coach in Gainesville doesn’t have to wonder, “Who’s really in control?”

“We’re going to put in the necessary resources to make the right decision to get the right person and the right structure around that person to be successful,” Stricklin said. “We’re very blessed to be in a place where we do have some resources.”

However, some of those funds will go to Mullen. Stricklin said the school will honor the terms of their contract, meaning it will pay Mullen its entire $12 million buyout. He owes $6 million within 30 days of his resignation, and the remaining $6 million is due annually in payments of $1 million.

Florida has paid a total of $13.8 million in buyout/settlement money to the two football coaches who preceded Mullen, McElwain and Muschamp.

With Mullen out in Florida, 10 of the 14 SEC head coaches going into the 2022 season will have spent two or fewer seasons in their positions.

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