Scott Stricklin let go of his first head coaching hire for the Florida Gators football program on Sunday, firing fourth-year coach Dan Mullen in the early afternoon and opening a search for a new leader of the team.
Stricklin, UF's athletic director, made the decision on Sunday morning following Florida's 24-23 overtime loss to Missouri on Saturday night.
"I met with coach Mullen shortly before noon today in his office and we had a conversation. I just told him I felt like we needed to go a different direction for the Gators and our football program," Stricklin shared. "He understood. It was actually a very productive conversation."
In that talk, Stricklin offered Mullen the chance to coach against Florida State. Mullen declined after putting some thought into the proposition, according to Stricklin, who claimed that Mullen did not want his job status to become a distraction.
Stricklin proceeded to promote running backs coach/special teams coordinator Greg Knox to interim head coach, while he begins the search for UF's next full-time leader.
The Gators' next head coach will be their fourth in eight years, following the previous dismissals of Jim McElwain (2015-17) and Will Muschamp (2011-14). Stricklin praised each coach, including Mullen, for impressive peaks with the program, but indicated that he is looking for a coach who can sustainably win at Florida.
"Obviously, we want somebody going forward who can come in here and they share our high expectations for sustained success and can do so at a place with great resources like the University of Florida," Stricklin said. "You've got to put really good structure, culture in place in order to sustain at a high, high level over a long period of time."
Mullen led Florida to the 2020 SEC Championship and his Gators were a touchdown removed from a College Football Playoff Berth last December. However, Mullen and his team would follow the campaign with UF's first winless SEC road schedule since before the conference expanded.
Stricklin said that there is currently no timetable established to fill Mullen's former role, as he plans to utilize every resource available to find a coach he believes can reach consistent, sustainable success.
"We want to take the time we need to get the right coach. We’d love to have one tomorrow, but that’s probably not realistic. But we’re going to move as quickly as we can," Stricklin said.
"It goes back to this is a place we want to win championships," he continued. "We’ve won 251 SEC championships in our history as a university - that’s a hundred more nearly than the next closest SEC school. We’ve won 42 national championships across all sports, three in the sport of football. We want someone who has high expectations and big aspirations that match the University of Florida."
Sunday marked Stricklin's first public press availability since accusations surfaced alleging former Gators women's basketball coach Cameron Newbauer of abusing his players. Stricklin declined a chance to comment on the numerous accounts that have been reported but said that the UF Board of Trustees and boosters have given him a vote of confidence to hire the next football coach despite those claims.
It won't be easy, as Florida entered the mix for a new head coach rather late compared to the rest of the college football landscape. UF was the 13th FBS school (second in the SEC, eighth in the Power 5) to fire its head coach in-season this year and was followed shortly by Troy on Sunday afternoon.
"We have a pretty good understanding of what the market looks like and understand certainly the schools that have gotten out there midseason or early season in the case of some schools. We have a pretty good feel for that," Stricklin stated. "Hopefully we can learn a lot more in the days ahead.”
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