Florida reels in offensive-minded Mullen

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dan Mullen started paying attention to Florida football more than two decades ago, long before he first stepped foot on campus.

Mullen was the receivers coach at tiny Wagner College in New York City in the mid-1990s and kept tabs on what Steve Spurrier was doing about 900 miles away.

Mullen even emulated the Old Ball Coach's trademark headgear.

"What did you do if you're a Florida Gator and you're going to start coaching? You start wearing the visor," Mullen said. "I don't know if I wear it quite as stylishly as (Spurrier) did, but I've always been known to throw one of them every once in a while out there. But that's really the reason I started doing that in the first place."

The 45-year-old Mullen is bringing his visor — and hopefully more points — back to Gainesville.

The Gators formally introduced Mullen on Monday. He signed a six-year, $36 million deal that makes him the sixth highest paid coach in college football and second highest paid in the Southeastern Conference behind Alabama's Nick Saban.

Mullen's deal includes a $12 million buyout if Florida fires him without cause. It would cost Mullen $2 million to walk away for any reason.

Neither side expects those protections to be used. That's because Mullen wants to be in Gainesville and welcomes the pressure that comes with the job. The Gators couldn't say the same about Chip Kelly or Scott Frost.

"I don't know if there's anywhere I'd rather be than here," Mullen said. "I don't know if there's a better job in America than here. You know, when you have that opportunity, you can't pass up the opportunity to come to the premier program in the country."

Florida has been far from elite since Mullen left town following the 2008 season to take over at Mississippi State.

The Gators averaged 36.3 points a game and 7.1 yards a play during Mullen's tenure (2005-08). They have mostly sputtered since, finishing six of the last seven years ranked in triple digits in total offense.

Mullen plans to fix that.

"Trust me, I know how important offense is here," Mullen said. "I've been here and know what that's all about, and I know everybody likes to score some points.

"Coach Spurrier might argue with me, but I don't know if there's anyone in this room who likes scoring points more than me. I love scoring points. We can score a hundred. I'll keep going. I love scoring points. That's fun."

One of the reasons Florida parted ways with coach Jim McElwain last month was because he failed to get the offense back to a respectable level.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin also felt McElwain didn't have the right infrastructure in place for success.

"I think it's critical," Stricklin said. "It's the backbone. I think any successful program has a really strong strength and conditioning program that builds accountability, and I think programs that aren't as successful usually are lacking in that area."

Stricklin had hoped to hire Kelly, but the former Oregon coach with NFL experience spurned Florida for UCLA last week. UCF's Frost reportedly said no thanks to the Gators through his representatives, leaving Stricklin to look elsewhere.


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