GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida head coach Dan Mullen finally acknowledged making some “regrettable” comments last year, none more irritating than talking about and doubling the filling of the team’s home stadium during a pandemic.
But Mullen did not apologize for keeping quiet after people close to Mullen told ESPN they believed he would entertain the NFL at some point.
“There are a lot of rumors, but I didn’t speak to anyone,” Mullen said during a Zoom interview on Tuesday, two days before the start of spring practice.
Mullen, 48, was specifically asked if he wants to finish in the pros, possibly after next season or later.
“I’ll approach it this way: I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what the future of college football holds and what it will look like in the future,” he said. “I love being here at the University of Florida. I think we have a great program. We have a great fan base, a great story, the opportunity to be a championship program every year.”
“I think there are concerns with the coaches (regarding) what the future of college football will look like … I think there is a lot of uncertainty that we are trying to resolve right now to see what our future is.”
Between the burgeoning transfer portal that forces coaches to continually re-recruit their own players and the undetermined challenges regarding the potential to gain name, image and likeness, it’s easy to see why coaches might want to get out. The coronavirus pandemic also exposed college athletics for having a financial model that is capable of collapsing in a short time.
Former Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer left the broadcast booth to join the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, becoming the third college coach in as many years to make the move. Kliff Kingsbury went from Texas Tech to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 and Matt Rhule jumped from Baylor to Carolina Panthers in 2020.
Mullen certainly has the credentials, whether it’s to make the state of Mississippi an occasional threat in the Southeastern Conference or to help the Gators become a championship contender again. His resume also includes a lot of work with NFL quarterbacks, including Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott. Former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will be Mullen’s next quarterback in the draft. Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks could also be a last-round pick.
Mullen has spent nearly three decades in college ranks, including the last 16 years in the mighty SEC.
His last was possibly the most difficult. He was reprimanded for his comments about wanting to “pack the swamp” after a loss to Texas A&M and cram 90,000 fans into Florida Field during a public health crisis.
He also stumbled after losing to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, insisting that the 2020 Florida team’s last outing was in the SEC title game. The Gators were without their top four receivers and three defensive starters against the Sooners, and Mullen praised the efforts of his “scouting team players,” comments that were seen as detracting from Oklahoma’s victory.
“There were probably some times that I said things that, you know, maybe regrettable, maybe they didn’t come out the right way, maybe they were interpreted differently,” Mullen said. “You’re always trying to improve, always trying to improve and look at that. I think one of the things that you can do is look back and reflect and say ‘Hey, at that moment is the right way to approach something. ? ‘”
Mullen had other embarrassing moments in 2020.
The SEC rebuked him and fined him $ 25,000 after league officials decided he did more to inflame than extinguish a tense situation against Missouri that led to a halftime brawl on Halloween night. Mullen wore a Darth Vader costume to his post-game press conference, essentially welcoming the villain role.
He found himself in warmer water just before Christmas, when the NCAA said Mullen had failed to “promote an atmosphere of compliance” by having inadmissible contact with a recruit in Seattle and allowing inadmissible contact with seven teams that stopped in Gainesville. on his way to an event in Tampa.
The violations led Florida to NCAA parole for the first time in 30 years.
The show’s cause penalty also likely means there will be no raise or extension for Mullen, who is 29-9 since he replaced Jim McElwain after the 2017 season. He has three years left on a six-year, $ 36.6 million deal. which makes him the 10th highest paid coach in college football.
“Yeah, I don’t control that part, so I have to worry about what I control,” he said. “That could be at someone else’s press conference. That would be a good question for them.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.