Dan Mullen, you just signed up for the most stressful years of your life.
Less than one decade after helping Florida win two national championships over a three-year span, Dan Mullen is coming back to Gainesville.
The former Mississippi State coach and Florida offensive coordinator agreed to become the Gators next head coach, the school announced Sunday evening.
Dan, you didn’t have to take the job. There was no gun to your head. But there is now.
For many Florida fans, saying they have high expectations is an understatement. The more demanding half of Gator Nation needs wins like they need water to survive.
At some level, the decision is an admirable one — like diving on a grenade or marching into battle with 300 Spartans against 100,000 Persian warriors. The opportunity for glory is there. But the toll that being Florida’s head coach takes on someone is enough to make all the zeros on a coaching contract look insignificant.
To the unassuming half of UF fans, let’s talk about just how distressing the Gators’ top job is.
Jim McElwain was the first coach in SEC history to win his division in his first two seasons. By the third year, he said he was getting death threats and endless hate mail. And halfway through the 2017 season, he was out.
Urban Meyer, who won two of UF’s three national championships in his six-year tenure, lost 37 pounds, was rushed to the hospital with heart problems, and needed Ambien and beer to sleep by the 2009 season.
“I thought I was dying,” Meyer told ESPN. “Mentally, I was broke.”
Mullen was Meyer’s offensive coordinator for most of those seasons. And his wife said she was harassed at the supermarket — not only if Florida didn’t win, but if her husband’s offense didn’t score more than 43 points.
“I was going to the grocery store in Orlando,” Megan Mullen said on MSU’s Bully Pulpit podcast. “I was driving the groceries back to Gainesville because it was that bad.”
Dan Mullen himself has been forthcoming about the pressure. While at Mississippi State in 2014, he said he and Meyer didn’t enjoy coaching at UF by the end of their tenure.
“I think we put it into a position where winning was no longer fun,” Mullen said. “Winning was a relief. Losing was the greatest disaster that could come upon you. So there was never a joy aspect anymore at the end at Florida.”
As expected, Mullen remembered his time at Florida with a little more optimism when he was officially announced as Florida’s coach, saying he’s happy to return to Gainesville with a supportive administration (that ousted its last coach after back-to-back division titles) and fan base (that threatens coaches on Twitter daily).
“Megan and I are very excited to get back to Gainesville,” Mullen said in a release.
Matt Brannon is the Alligator’s sports editor. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.