A championship attitude has returned to Florida football, and that’s a great start

By Adam Silverstein
November 27, 2017
A championship attitude has returned to Florida football, and that’s a great start

Image Credit: Tim Casey / UAA

There is no guarantee that Dan Mullen will lead the Florida Gators to the College Football Playoff or a national title game no matter how long his tenure in Gainesville, Florida.

In fact, Mullen was sure not to promise titles, rings, trophies or statues during his near-hour introductory press conference on Monday. Instead, his primary charge was clear.

Well before another trophy can be added to Florida’s impressive case, the Gators have to put themselves in position to contend for one.

And though Florida has played in two SEC Championship Games under their last two head coaches, at no point has UF been truly competitive on a national stage since Urban Meyer’s departure.

That’s Mullen’s directive. The Gators must be stronger and more prepared. They must be relentless and unforgiving. The coaching staff must be flexible and adaptable. And perhaps most importantly, Florida has to return to being dominant on the recruiting trail — both on offense and defense, every single cycle.

Unlike his predecessor, Mullen does not see himself as bigger than the job. He understands what the title of Head Ball Coach means around Gainesville. He saw Meyer go through it. He idolized the true HBC, Steve Spurrier, as a youngster growing up in New Hampshire.

Mullen proved that on Monday.

There were two Head Ball Coaches in the press conference. One, a legend, sat in the back of the room with his even-more-popular significant other, watching with a smile as Mullen offered an extended hand as opposed to an outstretched arm. (Hell, he even got to hear a solid impersonation of himself. “I’d be shocked if I don’t come in from practice and hear, ‘Well, why are we doing this?!'” Mullen joked.)

The other stood in front of an orange-and-blue podium for the first time in nine years, moments after inheriting an office he likely never thought he would occupy.

Mullen is not a coordinator taking his first head coaching job or a Mountain West coach flying across the country to take the reins of a program whose pressures he could not fathom. He’s a bonafide Head Ball Coach, Florida’s first in seven years.

That’s not a title you’re given; it’s one you earn. Nine years in the SEC, a .605 winning percentage at freakin’ Mississippi State, bringing that team to No. 1 in the country, developing a future NFL Rookie of the Year — that does not just happen.

One could argue Mullen is even better-prepared for the job than Meyer was in 2005.

You could tell from the first step he took out of the University Athletic Association jet’s cabin. Mullen, clad in orange and blue, Gator Chomped — right over left. (He was also wearing socks.) He immediately walked up to long-time beat writers covering the team and fans that made the trek out to the airport to greet him. It would have been tough for them not to notice the massive national title ring shining on his right hand.

Mullen’s social media accounts were changed immediately with a picture of the coach hugging former Heisman Trophy and national championship-winning quarterback Tim Tebow, whom he refers to as a “family member”, taking center stage.

Upon arriving in the office, he proudly sat back at his new desk with the two crystal footballs he helped win nicely positioned in the background. Not long after, he began speaking of Florida’s successes — not just during his tenure as offensive coordinator but since Spurrier started running the show.

Mullen mentioned how his wearing of a visor on the sideline is derived directly from watching Spurrier as a youngster. He promised former players would be leaned on to impart their wisdom on current players (and surely help as much as they are allowed to on the recruiting trail) because that was “critical” to UF’s future success. Mullen rattled off the names: Tebow, Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden, the list goes on.

He also provided detailed, well-reasoned answers to specific questions. Rather than quip that he could win with his dog — named Heisman and adopted when he was last in Gainesville, by the way — playing quarterback, he provided a two-minute explanation about what he looks for at the position and what it takes to be a true signal caller in his eyes.

Mullen spoke of “relentless effort,” his trademark catch phrase, and the “unbelievable standard of excellence at Florida.” He then ripped a page straight out of Meyer’s own book. “I chose them. They didn’t choose me,” he said of Florida’s current players. “I will earn their respect, but they have to earn mine.”

At one point during his opening statement, after promising the Gators would be the fastest and hardest-playing team in the country, Mullen paused. It was as if, in that moment, it all finally sunk in.

Then he smiled. “It’s so fun to be back.”

Athletic director Scott Stricklin promised four weeks ago that he would make Florida football fun again. He may have believed Chip Kelly or Scott Frost were initially better options to do that, but the answer was staring him — and Gators fans — in the face the entire time.

It was always you, Dan. It was always you.

The time for words is now over. Mullen began recruiting the second he arrived back at Florida. He hopes to have parts of a staff announced soon and the entire unit compiled at the start of 2018, one month before National Signing Day. All of that will come in time.

It’s trite to talk about a coach “winning the press conference,” but it’s ignorant to believe it doesn’t matter.

Monday was a rare second chance to make a first impression, and Mullen smashed it right in the sweetspot.

Now all he has to do is follow through.


  1. cline says:

    what year was the third SEC title game after Meyer?

  2. Jay says:

    One thing for sure. Mullen is very excited to be in Gainesville and its refreshing to hear someone speak so well of our program and where he wants to go with it. Dan, I hope you are here for many successful years. Go Gators.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I agree. There is a lot to be said for the fact that he wants to be here. Didn’t have to fly 6 VIP’s to Starkville to get him either (bahaha. . still SMH). This guy’s intelligence is obvious and his enthusiasm is both electric and infectious. It’s always great to be a Florida Gator, but it just got a whole lot more exciting again.

      Go Gators!!!

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