Florida fires Dan Mullen after loss to Missouri

·4-min read

Dan Mullen's tenure at Florida is over.

Florida made Mullen's firing official on Sunday afternoon after multiple outlets — including Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel — reported that the coach was getting fired. 

Florida lost 24-23 to Missouri in overtime to drop to 5-6 on Saturday. Florida plays Florida State — also 5-6 — with bowl eligibility on the line in the final week of the regular season. 

The Gators said in a statement that special teams coordinator and running backs coach Greg Knox would be the team's interim coach against the Seminoles.

Florida started the season 2-0 with big wins over Florida Atlantic and South Florida. The Gators then played Alabama tough in Week 3 and lost 31-29. The loss seemed to be a sign that Florida was once again a top team in the SEC and a legitimate contender to Georgia in the East.

That did not happen. After beating Tennessee by 24, Florida lost at Kentucky. The Gators have beaten only Vanderbilt and Samford in the six games after that Kentucky loss and lost 34-7 to Georgia on Oct. 30.

Florida is 2-9 against Power Five opponents since beating Tennessee 31-19 on Dec. 5, 2020. The Gators finished the 2020 season with losses to LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma and are currently 2-6 in the SEC.

Mullen is the third member of the Florida coaching staff to be relieved of his duties this season. Florida fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy after a blowout loss to South Carolina two weeks ago.

Mullen finishes his Florida tenure with a 34-15 record. The Gators went 10-3 and 11-2 in his first two seasons with the team but went 8-5 in 2020 and can win only seven games in 2021 with a win over Florida State and a victory in a bowl game.

Florida's six SEC losses in 2021 are the most the Gators have had in a conference season since going 0-6 in 1979.

Another big job is open

Mullen’s firing opens up another top-tier job in college football. USC and LSU are already looking for coaches while Washington, Washington State, Virginia Tech also have openings. There could be more Power Five teams looking for coaches, too. Other jobs could open up after the final week of the regular season.

With Florida, USC and LSU looking for coaches — and likely willing to offer extremely high salaries — the coaching market is not in the favor of schools looking for candidates. Unlike some hiring cycles, there aren’t many obvious candidates in college football for the top-tier jobs this year. As Thamel wrote earlier this past week, there are going to be schools left holding the bag this offseason. 

Here’s the one certainty that has emerged amid what promises to be the most chaotic carousel in recent college football history — some athletic directors, presidents and decision-makers are going to end up looking foolish.

“The best place to be right now is a coach in demand,” said one industry source. “The scariest place to be is an athletic director without one of the top two or three jobs. Someone is going to get left holding the bag.”

The coaching carousel has flipped into such an overdrive that the biggest intrigue will be which school falls on its face, victim to grand ambitions colliding with sputtering execution.

Florida's 2022 class at No. 34

A big priority for Florida will be its next coach’s ability to recruit. Mullen’s recruiting has been a point of concern among the Florida fan base and Rivals’ recruiting rankings show why. Florida’s 2022 class is currently ranked No. 34 in the country, behind teams like Baylor, Purdue and West Virginia.

Mullen’s 2021 class ranked No. 11 but signed just one five-star prospect. Alabama and Ohio State each signed five five-star players while LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M each signed two. Florida’s 2021 class was fifth in the SEC and second in the state of Florida behind Miami.

It'll also be imperative for Florida's next coach to identify a quarterback, whether that's through high school recruiting, the transfer portal or someone already on the roster.

Mullen lost faith in Anthony Richardson after the implosion at the end of the first half against Georgia and didn't have faith in Emory Jones late in regulation against Missouri on Saturday. The Tigers missed a go-ahead field goal with just over a minute left and the game tied at 16-16. Florida took over at the Mizzou 30 and needed just 40 yards or so to get into position for a game-winning kick.

Instead, Mullen called three consecutive run plays as Florida played for overtime and ended up having to punt as Missouri called timeout after realizing Florida had no interest in winning in regulation. Mullen's decision backfired spectacularly in overtime as Missouri scored a game-winning two-point conversion on its possession. 

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