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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Mullen out as Florida football coach

Gators part with fourth-year head coach following Saturday’s overtime loss to Missouri

Florida football coach Dan Mullen, pictured during a Nov. 13 game against Samford, was fired Sunday, multiple reports confirmed.
Florida football coach Dan Mullen, pictured during a Nov. 13 game against Samford, was fired Sunday, multiple reports confirmed.

Dan Mullen has coached his final Florida football game.

The fourth-year coach who stood at the helm of the Gators program since the 2018 season was fired Sunday, first reported by the likes of On3 Sports’ Matt Zenitz and ESPN’s Chris Low.

Mullen finished his tenure with the Gators with a 34-15 overall record and a 21-14 record in the Southeastern Conference. Florida is currently 5-6 for the 2021 season, including 2-6 in the SEC, and Mullen lost nine of his final 11 games against Power Five opponents.

The former Florida offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach won two championships with Florida in 2006 and 2008, and his head coaching stint started with promise. He inherited a team which went 4-7 and 3-5 in the SEC in 2017 and led it to consecutive 10-win seasons. He finished 10-3 with a victory over Michigan in the Peach Bowl in his debut season, and he improved to 11-2 with an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia in his second effort. Florida finished both seasons within the top seven on the final Associated Press rankings.

The early 2020 season appeared to be Mullen’s breakout. He won eight of his first nine games, reaching as high as No. 3 in the AP poll. He won the SEC East division in 2020 and came within 6 points of beating Alabama in the conference championship. Quarterback Kyle Trask finished as a Heisman finalist, and tight end Kyle Pitts became the highest player ever drafted at his position when the Atlanta Falcons pulled him fourth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Everything came undone for Mullen in 2021, however. After an early 31-29 home loss to then-No. 1 Alabama, Florida seemed again poised for a prominent season. The Gators promptly lost five of their final seven games, including a 34-7 thrashing by No. 1 Georgia and unranked conference road losses to Kentucky, Louisiana State, South Carolina and Missouri.

Mullen lost three of his four career games to the Georgia Bulldogs and rival coach Kirby Smart.

Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy were also fired on Nov. 7 following the loss to South Carolina.

The final nail in the coffin seemed to be Saturday’s overtime loss to Missouri. Florida took the ball with about a minute to play and roughly 40 yards from field-goal range, but ran the ball out to head to overtime.

Both teams scored a touchdown on their first overtime possessions, but Missouri went for two and converted to send the Gators packing.

UPDATE - Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, who met with the media Sunday afternoon, said he came to the decision to fire Mullen when he woke up Sunday morning, and Mullen turned down the chance to coach the Florida State game this weekend in order to not serve as a distraction. He didn’t, however, consider waiting to fire Mullen until next week.

“Once you get that feeling it’s time to do something different, you’ve got to go ahead and do it,” Stricklin said.

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Stricklin said he would start the process of finding a new football coach immediately.

Despite Mullen’s termination, Florida can still become bowl eligible with a victory over FSU, with running backs coach and special teams coordinator Greg Knox serving as the interim head coach. 

UPDATE - Mullen released a statement on Twitter several hours after the news became public, saying he was grateful for the chance to coach at Florida.

“The program has a bright future ahead with the young talent on the team,” Mullen said in the statement.

Contact Ryan Haley at rhaley@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.


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