Gainesville, Fla. —Florida has hired Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as its next football coach, bringing back the guy who helped turned Tim Tebow into a star.
The Gators announced the deal Sunday, after Mullen told his team he was returning to Gainesville.
Spurned by Chip Kelly and seemingly unwilling to risk waiting for UCF’s Scott Frost to possibly do the same, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin turned to Mullen. Stricklin and Mullen worked together in Starkville from 2009 to 2016. Stricklin was Mississippi State’s athletic director for seven of those years.
Mullen previously spent four years (2005-08) as Florida’s offensive coordinator and won two national championships while guiding Tebow to the top of the school record books. The Gators averaged 36.3 points a game and 7.1 yards a play during Mullen’s tenure.
The Gators have mostly sputtered on offense since.
“I have such great memories of the championships we won during our time here and have a love for Florida,” Mullen said in a statement. “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.”
Stricklin vowed to make Florida fun again when he parted ways with coach Jim McElwain last month. For a week, it looked like Kelly might pacify a frustrated fan base. But Kelly chose UCLA over Florida, and Stricklin was left to look elsewhere.
He made the safe choice, one that won’t be wildly popular with the Florida faithful.
Still, Mullen, 45, has a resume that’s hard to ignore. He has nine years of experience in the rugged Southeastern Conference, knows Florida well, has recruited in the Sunshine State and led the Bulldogs to a bowl game for a school-record eight consecutive years. He is 5-2 in bowls.
He clearly overachieved at Mississippi State, which had lost at least eight games in seven of the eight seasons before Mullen’s arrival.
Mullen spent nine years in Starkville, posting a 69-46 record that included a 33-39 mark in SEC play.
Texas A&M fired coach Kevin Sumlin after six winning seasons.
The first black head coach in program history was 51-26 and 25-23 in the Southeastern Conference and never had a losing season.
The Aggies ended their regular season on Saturday by losing to LSU. They dropped to 7-5 and finished 4-4 in the SEC for the fourth time under Sumlin.
... Arizona State fired coach Todd Graham after six seasons despite a win over rival Arizona.
Graham and his staff will remain with the program through Arizona State’s bowl game.
Graham, 52, has three seasons left on a contract that runs through the 2020 season and is owed $12 million.
... A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press that Tennessee is no longer pursuing Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to be the school’s new head coach.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because none of the negotiations were intended to be made public until a deal was reached.
The school and Schiano were close to an agreement earlier Sunday, but the deal fell apart after the widespread backlash that included a protest on campus and complaints on social media from fans, state representatives and gubernatorial candidates.
Their complaints stemmed from Schiano’s background as an assistant at Penn State during Jerry Sandusky’s tenure as the Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator.
... Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos has a list of a half-dozen names of coaches to replace Mike Riley, who was fired Saturday after a 4-8 season ended.