Less than one decade after helping Florida win two national championships over a three-year span, Dan Mullen is coming back to Gainesville.
UF has finalized a deal to hire Mullen as the next head coach of its football program, the school confirmed on Sunday evening.
Mullen was the Gators’ offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008 and spent the past nine seasons as head coach at Mississippi State.
His 69-46 record with the Bulldogs makes him the second-winningest coach in the school’s history, and the team’s 8-4 (4-4 SEC) record this fall earned it a bowl-game bid for the eighth consecutive year.
In Mullen’s tenure at Florida, the Gators went 44-9, averaged 36.3 points per game, 6.5 yards per play and had a total quarterback rating of 77.0, all of which ranked first in the SEC over that span. His high-powered offense also led UF to national titles in 2006 and 2008.
“(My wife) Megan and I are very excited to get back to Gainesville and the University of Florida,” Mullen said in a release. “I have such great memories of the championships we won during our time here and have a love for Florida.”
Aside from coaching former Heisman winner Tim Tebow, Mullen also coached current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott at Mississippi State and current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith at Utah.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin worked with Mullen while serving as Mississippi State’s athletic director from 2010 to 2016 and said the 45-year-old coach is “one of the best offensive minds in all of college football.”
“I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have immediate and long-term success at the University of Florida,” Stricklin said in a release.
Mullen returns to UF in the wake of its second losing season since 1980. The Gators went 4-7 this fall and fired Jim McElwain on Oct. 29, just one day after a 42-7 loss to Georgia.
Over the course of Florida’s search for a new coach, Mullen wasn’t the only candidate to receive consideration for the job, according to reports.
Stricklin reportedly targeted both former Oregon coach Chip Kelly — who was hired by UCLA on Saturday — and current UCF coach Scott Frost — who told Stricklin he wasn’t interested in the position, according to USA Today’s Dan Wolken — before making the decision to hire Mullen on Sunday.
Now, Florida’s new coach is tasked with turning around a program that ranked in the bottom three of the SEC in both points and yards per game over the last two seasons.
That turnaround begins with solidifying its 2018 recruiting class, which has lost three commits since McElwain’s firing, including two this past weekend.
The Gators’ 2018 class is still ranked in the top 15 nationally, according to Rivals, and features four-star quarterback Matt Corral.
The signing date for recruits to join Florida as early enrollees is Dec. 20, while National Signing Day is slated for Feb. 7.