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Florida Gators Fire Head Coach Dan Mullen

The Florida Gators will begin their search for a new head coach immediately.

Photo: Dan Mullen; Credit: Alex Shepherd

The Florida Gators are relieving head coach Dan Mullen of his duties, UF sources confirmed to AllGators. The news was first reported by Matt Zenitz of On3Sports. 

The move to dismiss Mullen may come as a surprise to some as the 49-year-old's five-year contract extension with the school, signed in 2021, was set to go into effect at the beginning of 2022. However, Florida's on-field results in Mullen's fourth season as head coach reasonably led the university to begin looking in a new direction.

The South Carolina game on Nov. 6, one in which Florida entered as a 21-point favorite and lost by 23, the Nov. 13 narrow victory over FCS Samford Bulldogs as a five-touchdown favorite, and the Nov. 20 loss to Missouri that ensured a winless season-long record in SEC road games were the final three nails in Mullen's proverbial coffin.

Mullen finishes his tenure as UF's head coach, his second stint with the Gators after serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2005-08, with a 34-15 record (21-13 vs. SEC). The Gators finished (5-6, 2-6 SEC) under Mullen's lead in 2021.

Mullen will be owed a contract buyout with $12 million due as a part of the contract extension he signed earlier in the year.

Although the firing will primarily be viewed as a result of the Gators' performance in 2021, Mullen began to lose support a year earlier following a mix of PR gaffes, sanctions for recruiting violations, and a three-game losing streak to end an otherwise successful third year on the job.

Things began to turn for the worse during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. Mullen first came under fire for his comments after a Week 3 loss to Texas A&M, in which he suggested that Florida's stadium should return to full capacity amid the pandemic as he was frustrated by the crowd noise created by the Aggies' fanbase. 

The Gators experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 cases the following week and had their matchup against the LSU Tigers postponed as such. Mullen tested positive for coronavirus himself within days of his comments.

From there, the positive narrative surrounding Mullen's tenure as head coach would spiral. Mullen was fined $25,000 and was issued a reprimand for violating SEC sportsmanship bylaws after involving himself in a brawl in Florida's next game, against Missouri. 

Before the end of the 2020 season, it was announced that Mullen was handed a one-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions for recruiting violations and failing to "promote an atmosphere of compliance." The news was announced days prior to UF's Cotton Bowl loss to Oklahoma, which ended the Gators' season on a three-game losing skid.

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At least a portion of Florida's fanbase began to lose confidence in Mullen at that point, as he refused to terminate the contract of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham following Florida's worst season defensively in recent memory, finishing No. 83 in the country in yards and No. 74 in points allowed per game. 

As the Gators' record in 2021 indicates, Florida didn't exactly rebound from a sour end to their previous campaign. And as for Mullen, the miscues continued to pile up within the press.

After Florida's loss to the unranked Kentucky Wildcats in Week 5, Mullen was asked if he felt he was outcoached by Mark Stoops. He said no, and pointed to Florida's offense out-gaining Kentucky's as an apparent moral victory. 

Two weeks later, the Gators were embarrassed by LSU once again, as they were in the memorable "Shoe Game" at the end of the 2020 season. Despite allowing Tyrion Davis-Price to accumulate the highest number of rushing yards against the Gators in a game in school history, Mullen reiterated that he intended to keep Grantham on staff, at least through the end of the year.

Following Florida's blowout loss to No. 1 Georgia in its next game, Mullen set social media ablaze with a comment that - although it was taken out of context due to a stumbling of words - did not sit well with Florida fans nor national college football media. Asked if Florida's recruiting strategy needed a different approach, Mullen responded: “We’re in the season right now, we'll do recruiting after the season – when it gets to recruiting time we can talk about recruiting.”

Within an hour of his recruiting comment, Mullen canceled Florida's media availabilities for the remainder of the week leading into the South Carolina game. And at halftime during the Gamecocks contest, Mullen admitted that the Gators planned to make no half-time adjustments even though they were losing by 20 points. They ended up losing by 23, which led to the inevitable firings of Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy a day later.

The firings didn't result in much improvement, as the Gators' defense allowed 42 points in the first half to Samford the following week and 52 by the end of the game, the most points an FCS program has scored against an SEC opponent in college football history.

And in Mullen's final game as Florida's head coach, his Gators were defeated by the Missouri Tigers by an overtime score of 24-23, marking Florida's first season with a winless conference record on the road since, at least, the SEC's 1992 expansion.

Off the field, Mullen dug himself a hole that he couldn't get out of. On the field, the Gators lost nine of the final 14 games Mullen coached.

Florida will begin its search for a new head coach immediately. 

Stay tuned to AllGators for continuous coverage of Florida Gators football, basketball and recruiting. Follow along on social media at @SI_AllGators on Twitter and Florida Gators on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.