Nov 20, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen on the sidelines against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Florida fires coach Dan Mullen amid 5-6 season

Florida fired head coach Dan Mullen on Sunday, a day after the Gators lost their fourth straight Southeastern Conference game.

Greg Knox, the special teams coordinator and running backs coach, will serve as the interim coach for the Gators’ season-ending game on Saturday against Florida State.

Mullen, 49, leaves Florida with a 5-6 (2-6 SEC) record this season and a 34-15 overall mark, including 21 SEC wins in four seasons. The Gators appeared in three New Year’s Six bowl games, winning two, and in the SEC championship game during his tenure.

He coached Mississippi State to a 69-46 record over nine seasons before taking the job at Florida.

The hot seat had grown for Mullen since a 20-13 loss to Kentucky on Oct. 2 moved the Gators to 3-2 on the season. Florida was No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 entering the game, fell to No. 20 and then cratered out of the poll.

The Gators lost 24-23 in overtime to Missouri on Saturday, their ninth loss to a Power 5 opponent in their past 11 games. Their wins this season have come against Florida Atlantic, South Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Samford.

Calls for Mullen’s firing intensified after the Samford game, when the Gators scored 70 but gave up 52 to an FCS school that just three weeks earlier had lost 55-13 to fellow Southern Conference school Chattanooga.

The Mullen Era ends with the Gators winning just one of four games against bitter rival Georgia and going 0-2 against Alabama.

Florida becomes the third major program to fire its coach in-season this year, joining Southern California and LSU.

–Field Level Media

Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) chases down Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) during second quarter action. The Florida Gators went into the half trailing the Georgia Bulldogs 24 to 0. The Florida Gators were the home team for this years annual Florida vs Georgia college football rivalry game at TIAA Bank field in Jacksonville, Florida Saturday, October 30, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Georgia Defense

Gators QB Anthony Richardson hurt knee dancing night before loss

Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday that quarterback Anthony Richardson injured his knee while dancing at the team hotel Friday night before Saturday’s lopsided loss to South Carolina.

Richardson, who had recently been cleared to return from a concussion, received treatment on his knee Saturday and dressed for the game as an emergency backup, but did not play.

The Gators turned instead to Emory Jones, who began the season as the starting quarterback. Jones passed for 258 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but the Gamecocks walloped Florida 40-17.

Richardson won the starting job over Jones midway through the season but has thrown five interceptions in his past three appearances. On Monday, Mullen said the redshirt freshman was “gimping around” the program’s facility.

“His MRI came back clean,” Mullen said. “He’s fine. … He did treatment all day Saturday but was fine to go play, could have played Saturday but having not practiced, coming off a concussion, and with that he was going to emergency-only situation.”

Richardson is 33-for-57 passing for 474 yards and five touchdowns in six games this year, along with 374 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries.

Florida fell to 4-5 with the loss to South Carolina, a game which they entered as 20-point favorites. Mullen fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy in the wake of the loss.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen stands on the field before the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Florida gives Dan Mullen raise, three-year extension

The University of Florida has given football coach Dan Mullen a three-year contract extension worth an additional $1.5 million annually through the 2026 season.

Mullen and Florida agreed to the extension last month. The Gators released details of Mullen’s contract in response to a public records request.

Mullen, 49, who made $6.07 million last year, will earn $7.6 million in 2021. That salary ranks third in the SEC behind Alabama’s Nick Saban ($9.1 million) and LSU’s Ed Orgeron ($8.68 million), according to the Orlando Sentinel. Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who makes $7.5 million per season, ranks fourth in the SEC.

“Dan has done a tremendous job in his three seasons at Florida, and we are fortunate to have someone with his obvious talents and head coaching experience leading our football program,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin in a statement. “I look forward to working alongside him to support his vision for Gators football and our student-athletes for many years.”

Under Mullen, the Gators have gone 29-9, including three consecutive New Year’s Six Bowl appearances, culminating with last season’s 55-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

“We are very excited about the future of the Florida football program, and this agreement allows us to continue to build on the success we have enjoyed on and off the field,” Mullen said in a statement.

Mullen served as the Gators’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2005-08. He went 98-55 as head coach at Mississippi Statet from 2009-17.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen reacts during a game against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. Oct. 3, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

NCAA sanctions Florida for recruiting violations

The NCAA sanctioned the Florida Gators for recruiting violations on Tuesday, charging head coach Dan Mullen with failing to “promote an atmosphere of compliance.”

The Division I Committee on Infractions said there were two Level II violations of recruiting contact rules.

The penalties issued included one year of probation and a $5,000 fine for the program and a one-year show-cause order for Mullen.

In one case, Mullen and an unnamed assistant coach had impermissible in-person contact when they met with a prospect’s head coach while the prospect was in the room. Mullen also sent the prospect text messages about his interest in recruiting the prospect, violating NCAA rules that prohibit off-campus contact until after a prospect’s junior year of high school.

In the second incident, members of the coaching staff had impermissible contact with approximately 127 prospects when seven non-scholastic football teams visited the Gainesville campus and toured the football facilities on their way to a tournament in Tampa.

“The head coach agreed that he did not promote an atmosphere of compliance in light of his personal involvement in one of the violations,” the NCAA report read.

Penalties also included a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire coaching staff during the spring 2021 recruiting period.

Florida (8-3) is set to face Oklahoma (8-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 30 in Arlington, Texas.

Mullen, 48, has a 29-8 record through three seasons with the Gators. He was 69-46 in nine seasons at Mississippi State before signing a reported six-year, $36.6 million contract with Florida in November 2017.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2020; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen and Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) during the first half against the Mississippi Rebels  at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Florida returns to practice after COVID-19 outbreak

Florida returned to practice Monday to prepare to play its first game since Oct. 10.

The Gators lost to Texas A&M that day, then halted all activities three days later after an outbreak of the coronavirus in the program. At least 26 players and three coaches — including head coach Dan Mullen — tested positive for COVID-19 this month.

Mullen has been cleared to return to the team but wouldn’t say how many players are continuing to battle the virus. He said there would be at least 53 players — the minimum required by the Southeastern Conference — at practice.

“Everybody’s really excited to get back to football and get back playing,” Mullen told reporters. “I think that’s something that is big within the team right now is that ability to get back out on the field. This year’s been a unique year like no other, with stops and starts and different schedules. Our guys have handled everything extremely well throughout the year. I think they’re going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field.

“I don’t expect us to come out there and have our sharpest, most crisp practice of the year, but I expect us to have great energy, excitement and enthusiasm to be back out there to get going as we build up to Saturday.”

The No. 10 Gators (2-1) will host Missouri (2-2) on Saturday in a game originally scheduled to be played Oct. 24. Florida’s game against LSU, set for Oct. 17, was moved to Dec. 12.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2020; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen and Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) during the first half against the Mississippi Rebels  at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Florida eyes return to practice following outbreak

The Florida football program, amid an outbreak of COVID-19, will remain on hiatus for at least four more days, coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday.

Mullen spoke to reporters on the weekly SEC coaches call from his home, where he is isolating after testing positive for the virus last week.

He said he expects coaches and players to get back to work on Monday, also revealing another player tested positive. That makes 26 players and two assistant coaches with positive results in the past 10 days, but he said most of them have had just “minor” symptoms.

The No. 10 Gators (2-1) haven’t played since their Oct. 10 loss at Texas A&M — a trip that Mullen surmised led to the outbreak. Their Oct. 17 game against LSU was postponed, as was their game this Saturday against Missouri.

The Florida-Missouri clash was moved to Oct. 31 in Gainesville. The Gators and LSU will play on Dec. 12.

“We’ll take our time getting guys (back) in,” Mullen said. “Obviously health and safety has always been top priority within our program, so it’s not like Monday we don’t act like we think nothing’s happened. We’ll build back up a little bit on Monday into what we’re doing and getting ourselves back on track and ready to go play. I think our guys have handled everything so far this year extremely well. I expect them to handle this the same.”

Mullen said he is “comfortable” with the number of players that will be available next week.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen reacts during a game against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. Oct. 3, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida coach Mullen tests positive for COVID-19

Florida head coach Dan Mullen announced on Saturday that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Mullen is the sixth known FBS football coach to test positive for COVID-19 this season. Blake Anderson (Arkansas State), Les Miles (Kansas), Mike Norvell (Florida State), Nick Saban (Alabama) and Kevin Sumlin (Arizona) also have tested positive since Labor Day.

“Thank you Gator Nation for all your support for the program this week,” Mullen said on Twitter. “Thankfully, everyone impacted is recovering well and has experienced mild to no symptoms. I have also tested positive for COVID and have received word that my test has been confirmed.

“I’m continuing to self-isolate from my family, who all remain healthy, and am following all the guidelines set forth by UF Health, the CDC and our public health officials. I am proud of how our players, staff and campus community have navigated this unprecedented time and hope all continue to be safe.”

No. 10 Florida shut down all football activities and closed its coaching and administrative building earlier this week in Gainesville, Fla., after the program had 19 positive tests for the virus. This weekend’s scheduled game against LSU was rescheduled to Dec. 12.

Florida’s game against Missouri, originally scheduled for Oct. 24, has been pushed back to Oct. 31.

Florida is off to a 2-1 start after a 41-38 road loss to Texas A&M in its most recent contest. Mullen called on Florida fans to pack the home stadium after the loss and later recanted his plea.

–Field Level Media