Florida Gators hire Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as 27th head football coach

By Adam Silverstein
November 26, 2017
Florida Gators hire Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as 27th head football coach

Image Credit: ESPN Images

It’s said you can’t go home again, but don’t tell that to Dan Mullen, who has been named the 27th head football coach of the Florida Gators on Sunday night following a nine-year tenure leading the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Sources close to the coach and program confirmed the hiring to OnlyGators.com prior to the official announcement by UF. An introductory press conference is set for Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET.

Mullen, who previously served as Florida two-time national championship-winning offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer from 2005-09 before taking the Mississippi State job, brought the Bulldogs to No. 1 in the first-ever College Football Playoff Rankings back in 2014. His .605 winning percentage is greater than any MSU coach since 1953, and he’s accomplished that without signing a recruiting class ranked higher than 18th nationally in his entire tenure.

“Megan and I are very excited to get back to Gainesville and the University of Florida,” Mullen said. “I have such great memories of the championships we won during our time here and have a love for Florida. We are happy to be coming back to such a supportive administration, staff, student body and fan base, which is the premier football program in the country. We will give relentless effort in everything that we do on and off the field. Our commitment will match the passion that the Gator Nation has for this program.”

Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reports that Florida contacted Mullen for the first time on Friday after Mississippi State fell to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Though the Gators apparently had both free agent Chip Kelly and UCF head coach Scott Frost higher on their priority list, Thamel notes that “both indicated better fits may be available at a place other than a high-profile SEC school.” This coincides with much of what has been reported about this hiring process with Kelly feeling UCLA (a Pac-12 school in a less-pressurized environment) and Frost feeling Nebraska (his alma mater in a similar state) are simply more fitting opportunities.

In luring Mullen, Florida also swipes away Tennessee’s top candidate to fill its coaching position. The Vols have since targeted Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano but are experiencing massive fan backlash following the leaked hire.

Mullen brings a lot to the table for the Gators, including being a now-proven program builder and quarterback-developer, two things Florida has sorely missed since Meyer’s departure. Many felt Mullen would have joined the Gators when the Florida job opened in 2015 for the second time since Meyer’s departure, but then-athletic director Jeremy Foley never reached out to gauge his interest and quickly eliminated him as a candidate. Unlike Foley, current AD Scott Stricklin feels confident about his working relationship with Mullen as Stricklin was the former Mississippi State AD during the football program’s greatest rise.

“I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have immediate and long-term success at the University of Florida,” Stricklin said. “Coach Mullen is one of the best offensive minds in all of college football, and has an unbelievable track record in tutoring successful quarterbacks [such as Alex Smith, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald].

“Coach Mullen will do a tremendous job in developing accountability and toughness through a well-coordinated strength and conditioning program. Dan will work closely with the coaching staff, academic advising staff and administrative team to give every student athlete he coaches the opportunity to grow and excel at a high level athletically, academically and socially.”

In addition to developing Alex Smith into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft out of Utah, Mullen coached Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and current Dallas Cowboys star signal caller Dak Prescott, the 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year.

Mississippi State has finished with eight wins or more in five of Mullen’s nine seasons and gone 5-2 in bowl games with another coming up in 2017. Though the Bulldogs have only finished with a winning SEC record once in his nine years, they have been competing against a loaded SEC West during his entire tenure with the program.


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