By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida fired coach Dan Mullen on Sunday, a day after his sixth loss in nine games, two months after the Gators went toe to toe with defending national champion Alabama and a year after they had a chance to make the College Football Playoff.
Mullen’s stunning downfall and not-so-surprising departure ends a tumultuous two seasons that included mounting losses, numerous public relation missteps, NCAA sanctions and a victory against lower-division Samford that didn’t seem like much for Gators fans to celebrate.
His final game was a 24-23 loss in overtime at Missouri that spotlighted Florida’s flaws: inconsistent quarterback play, a porous offensive line, a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball and an inability to win close games. The Gators (5-6) have dropped seven consecutive one-possession games, all in the last two seasons.
Florida hosts rival Florida State (5-6) on Saturday, with the winner becoming bowl eligible. They’ll do so without Mullen, who also served as the team’s offensive coordinator and play-caller.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin wanted to give Mullen every chance to turn things around — especially since the team was ranked sixth in the CFP standings just a year ago. He even rewarded Mullen with a raise and a three-year contract extension in the offseason — but it became clear Mullen was losing support of top administrators, key boosters and even the program’s most loyal fans.
The Gators will pay Mullen a $12 million buyout spread over seven installments, with a $6 million payout coming within 30 days. Mullen will then get $1 million every July 15 through 2027. Six of Mullen’s assistants have expiring contracts, making the timing of the coaching change relatively ideal from that standpoint.
The Gators also have an $85 million standalone football facility opening next year, a long overdue upgrade that’s been years in the making. That and being surrounded by Florida’s fertile recruiting pool should make the Sunshine State’s best college football job even more attractive.
Florida has lost nine of its last 11 games against Power Five opponents, including four straight, and its current recruiting class ranks 34th in the country, according to Rivals.
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