UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 27, 2017
SCOTT STRICKLIN: Appreciate everybody being here today. Before we begin, there's a few people I'd like to recognize, just who helped with the process. Certainly Dr. Fox, who is a tremendous supporter and leader for this university and our athletic program, and he was unbelievable during this process.
My team that kind of helped with the search, from the UA side, Laird Veatch, Lynda Tealer, Steve McClain, Mike Hill. We had several other members of our UA staff who assisted with planning and logistics throughout the process.
One of things that makes this place really special is the people and we -- I tell people, we are like the Yankees. We attract the best and the brightest and we have an unbelievable staff who supported us during this process.
We had the wonderful opportunity to access a lot of talented minds in this world of football, one of whom happens to reside one floor above me, and that's Coach Steve Spurrier, who was an awesome resource during the process as well.
These last few weeks we have conducted a comprehensive search to identify the next head coach of the Florida gator, and the search included countless conversations with people throughout college football and a thorough review of all kinds of information, including data, analytics, on numerous candidates.
There was some key traits we were looking for in our new head coach. We want somebody with a strong work ethic, someone who had a great competitive drive, someone who had a high level of intelligence and could figure things out, and most importantly, somebody who had leadership ability at a high level.
Dan Mullen embodies these traits and I'm convinced he is ready for the challenges ahead with the Florida Gators. From a football standpoint, the decision to hire Dan was very easy. However, because of where he was and my connections to Mississippi State, I was only going to hire Dan if I felt he was unquestionably the right person for the job.
We had several intriguing and qualified options, but in the end, I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have an immediate and long-term success here at Florida, and he is the best choice to lead the University of Florida football program.
You know, Dan is one of best offensive minds in all of college football. He has an unbelievable track record developing what's the most important position on the field, the quarterback position. You look at guys like Alex Smith, No. 1 overall draft specific, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow here at the University of Florida, guys like Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State.
Dan is going to do a tremendous job at implementing accountability and toughness through a well coordinated strength and conditioning program. He's going to work closely with our coaching staff, academic advising staff, our administrative team to give every student athlete he coaches the opportunity to grow and excel at the highest level athletically, academically, and socially.
Obviously Dan understands the opportunity the University of Florida presents to create a championship experience with integrity. Having served here for four years as offensive coordinator, during which time the Gators won two SEC and two National Championships. Dan also understands the responsibilities of leading an SEC program, having led Mississippi State to unprecedented success during his nine years there.
I also know that Dan is one of the more creative and innovative minds in all of college football and will embrace the public role of being the head coach at the University of Florida very well. He knows that a big part of the championship experience should be about fun: Fun for the players, fun for the staff, fun for the student body and fun for Gator Nation.
The University of Florida is a Top-10 public university. We have a Top-10 athletic program, and we will soon have a championship-calibre football program. It is my great pleasure to introduce the new head football coach of the Florida Gators, Dan Mullen.
DAN MULLEN: Thank you. I want to thank Scott for believing in himself me, believing -- I think when you're at the University of Florida, you have the opportunity to hire just about anybody in the country. You're at the premiere football program in America, and it shows an awful lot for the belief that he has in me and the style of football program that I run to give me this opportunity to come here and be a part of the unbelievable Gator Nation and the Gator family and be a part of this football program and lead this football program into the future.
There's a lot of people, obviously, I want to thank. I want to thank my wife, Megan and Canon and Breelyn. I know they are very very excited to be here. Being a coach is a very difficult profession. You want to ask the first staff person, there is the assistant head coach is my wife because of the commitment level that it takes to run a football program, to make an impact an all of these young people's lives, both on and off the field.
We have a great responsibility as parents send their children to us, not just to develop them as football players but to help develop them as men. I know Megan is truly committed to helping develop all of these young men that come to the University of Florida into becoming champions, but not just in football, in becoming champions in life, and to work as hard as they can every day to be the best that they can be both on and off the field.
I want to thank Dr. Fox for giving me the opportunity to be here and help us lead this program. I just told him and my commitment to him, is to make sure that the university, not just the university administration; the university as a whole, the student body, the alumni and the fans have a football team that they are proud of both on and often field; and how we carry ourselves every single Saturday in the fall, but also how we carry ourselves 365 days a year representing this great university.
I know it's great to see Coach Spurrier and I saw Jerry in the back. You know, here, might not know this, as a young coach, started coaching a long time ago now. My first coaching job was a small called Wagner College in Staten Island, New York and always grew up a huge fan and was always a huge Florida Gator fan.
And so, what did you do if you're a Florida Gator and you're going to start coaching? You start wearing the visor. So I guess everybody sees me with my visor on. I don't know if I wear it quite as stylishly as Coach did, but, you know, I've always been known to throw one of them every once in a while (chuckles) out there. But that's really the reason I started doing that in the first place.
It's unbelievable to be here to think that I'm carrying on or I'm tasked with the responsibility of carrying on with the traditions that he has started and so many of the former players started here; that he built here as a coach and an unbelievable honor and responsibility that is.
I know there's a lot of -- I saw Scott Brantley, Shane was here. There's a bunch of former players that are here. I want them to understand, I understand the responsibility of what it is. I understand the pride of what it takes to represent the University of Florida; the pride of what it is to have that Gators helmet and put that on, and I want to make sure -- and I promise them I will make sure that every single player; that does wear that helmet; that does put on that uniform understands the pride and the responsibility they have to what that stands for now and what it stands for and what it has been built for throughout the years and how it has been built up and how they have the responsibility to carry on that tradition.
I want you to know there's an unbelievable standard of excellence in Florida, both in the classroom as a premiere academic institution and on the athletic field. It's not just in football but in all sports. I accept that.
I was very fortunate to have been here, to win two National Championships as an assistant coach here, and know how special this university is and how special it can be and how special a team that we can have.
I can promise you that I will give relentless effort in everything I do to make sure that we return the football program to a National Championship level. That's what it's all about for us here is to be judged and win championships at the University of Florida and I'm committed to doing that.
If you see our team play, you're going to see a team that plays, as I talk -- with relentless effort. That's what's most important to me. I think a lot of people are very concerned the offense the you, the defense that we run, are we blitzing on third down or how much pressure are we going to show on first down. You know, are we playing man or are we playing zone. How many snaps a game are in the shotgun or under center; how many times do we throw or how many do we run.
I'm going to be honest with you. That's going to change from one year to the next as it always does based on the type of players that we have in the program, and we are going to put our guys in the position to do what they do best and put them in a position to be successful. That's the responsibility of the coaches as we come up schematically and put plans together.
We'll base ourselves, obviously, out of a spread offense, which is something I believe in. But my definition of a spread offense might be different than others. I want to spread the field that make sure you defend sideline-to-sideline the entire field, and I want to make sure you defend all 11 guys that are out on the field and I want to put as much pressure on the defense as possible.
Defensively, I want to put as much pressure on the offense as possible, and an attacking, sound style of defense is going to be fast, physical and aggressive in everything that we do.
But most importantly, every Saturday when you walk into the swamp, or you turn us on on the road, is you will see a team that plays with relentless effort from the first snap to the last; a team that plays with a passion for the game of football and everything that they do. Whether the 11 guys are on the field or the guy standing behind them on the sidelines; that there will be an energy and an excitement and a passion about this team and a demand of relentless effort: Relentless effort competing in everything that we do from the opening kick to the final whistle of every single game, you'll see a team.
My expectations is to be the hardest-playing team in the country. I don't know if we'll be the biggest. I don't know if we'll be the fastest. Hopefully some years we're both. Other years maybe we'll just be the fastest.
But I do know this: We will be the hardest-playing team every single Saturday when we take the field, and that's something I'm going to demand of our players.
So fun to be back. It is so fun to be back. I want to thank -- I do want to thank everybody here. It's great to see familiar faces. It's great for me walking around, getting accustomed to where I'm going again. I've opened the wrong door already once or twice, but I'm starting to get my bearings back within the building and it's great to see all those people. I'm thrilled to be here.
I want to thank -- I do, I was very fortunate, do I thank everybody at Mississippi State University for the opportunities that they gave me there. There was a great administration, great athletic director, great president, and great people there and a great community that embraced and believed in me, and moving forward, I hope, that they continue to have the success that has been built up over the last several years and that they continue to build that program in the right direction.
But on to here, and I'm thrilled to be here. I'm thrilled to be your coach. I'm thrilled to represent this university. I'm thrilled to represent all the student, the faculty, every Saturday on the football field. I'm thrilled to represent the fan base.
I'm thrilled to represent the State of Florida as the premiere university in this state and all of these people in this state and the Gator Nation everywhere to be your football coach and to give you a team that you're going to be proud of every single Saturday in the fall.
So thank you so much. I'd love to take -- going to especially up for some questions.
Q. You've had opportunities in the past. Why this one, why now? Did you think it would come three years ago?
DAN MULLEN: No, I think when you look at all the opportunities in the past, I think timing -- there's a lot of timing in life in what goes on in your life. I know Megan and I have worked really hard over the last nine years at a football program at building it up and we certainly were ready and excited for a new challenge. That's something we discussed and that we talked about; that we were in a good situation but we were ready and excited for a new challenge.
And when the opportunity comes, to come to the University of Florida, I don't know if there's anywhere I'd rather be than here. 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 premiere program in the country.
Q. Can you just talk about how you think you've changed in the last nine years? Obviously from when you walked out the door here to when you walked back in.
DAN MULLEN: I've changed in basically every aspect of my life. As a coach, one of the things and even in life, you're getting better or you're getting worse every single day.
I'm going to be change -- I'll be a different coach tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be a better coach tomorrow than I am today. You're always working to do that.
But over the last nine years, I left here nine years ago, I was an offensive coordinator from a great team. I went down and I can tell you, first thing I did, was I named head coach. We did all the media, the press, you know, the introductions, all of these things. I walked in my office, sat down in the chair and I went, what do I do now (laughs).
Because I don't think there's anything -- working here for Urban Meyer and I think he always does a fabulous job of preparing assistant coaches for that responsibility but there's nothing that can prepare you for that responsibility of sitting in that chair and being the head coach.
You know, so over the last nine years, I've tried to look at what I've done well what I've done poorly, every day, how can I improve from year-to-year, whether it is -- in every aspect of the coaching profession, of how can I continue to improve, how can I continue to be better, and you know, over that time, you gain that experience.
There's always going to be something new come across your desk that you haven't dealt with before, but I think over those nine years, we've dealt with so many different issues and so many different things that happened, that you're prepared to handle just about whatever gets pushed across your way and handle it in the right way and in the right representation of the university and the football program and what we believe in.
Q. Did you feel differently when you sat down in that seat up there today?
DAN MULLEN: Very different. I'm going to tell you, I sat down with an enormous smile on my face, you know, and couldn't be happier to be here. But I also sat down understanding the enormous responsibility of the people that have sat in that chair before me and the standard that they have set.
If you know anything about me, I'm extremely competitive. I love that challenge. You know, whether it's me out there on the field coaching our teams on a Saturday, going out for a job, or if Coach Spurrier invites me out to play golf, I might make sure there's not a lot of like cameras videotaping because it could get maybe heated there -- because I know he's a little competitive (chuckles) as well.
But no, I think that conversation, that just drives you and that's the excitement of being about that position and also the comfort of knowing the experience that I've had over the last nine years; that it's not the first time that I'm dealing with a lot of different situations; that I've been in a lot of these situations before, and the experience to know how to handle what you're dealing with on a daily basis.
Q. What was your message to the players today?
DAN MULLEN: You know what, very friendly. We're going to have another in-depth team meeting later on when I really get in-depth to our expectations and the standards and the details of it.
But very, very simple of what to expect. No. 1, to be honest with you, I started with academics. Classes end next week and then we have final exams and there's a certain standard that I expect in the classroom and I explained to them that being a champion is not a sometimes thing. It's a way of life. It's who you are, and that gets to competing.
I don't care if you're competing out there on the football field, you're competing in the weight room, you're competing in conditioning, but you know, when you walk in the classroom, they also put a number on the top of that test and you compete. You might not cover, you know, Math 101 test scores, and that might not be on the ticker, but someone wins and someone loses.
We're going to be a team that competes in everything we do, and you'd better take that seriously and making sure that we are that mindset that, that we're competing as much in the classroom as we are going to compete on the field and we're just going to be competitors in life.
So it started there. Went into some of my general expectations on our core values, on decision-making, and I told them to rest up over the month of December. Because when they come back in January, it's probably going to be something they have never even experienced in their life before, our off-season conditioning program.
Q. Scott has talked about putting the fun back in Florida football. How do you do that?
DAN MULLEN: You know what, every day's fun. Every day is fun. I mean, I hope. I certainly hope every one of those guys loves playing ball.
I mean, the fun, there's a lot of different ways to have fun: The fun in preparation and knowing that you're working hard to prepare; the fun in the classroom of taking care of your business and being successful that way.
But the minute we get on that football field every day, that's what it's about. We're going out there to practice, that should be the best two hours of your day every single day. You're out there playing ball having having a great time, flying around, competing, playing football. If that's not fun, you're here for all the wrong reasons being part of this program, you know.
Like I said, we're going to try to go score some points. I know how important offense -- trust me, I know how important offense is here. I've been here and know what that's all about, and I know everybody likes to score some points.
And I'll be honest with you, Coach Spurrier might argue with me; I don't know if there's anyone in this room likes scoring points more than me, you know what I mean. I love scoring points. Right. We can score a hundred; I'll keep going. I love scoring points. That's fun.
But I love guys playing hard every single day and playing and reaching their potential and achieving their goals. That's what we learn in football. That's what is fun is going out there and competing every day to be the best you can be.
Q. Going back to your comments about how special of a job this is, in the back of your mind, were you always hoping this would come to fruition at some point in your career, and what can you say about the process about, how did it come about here in the last few days?
DAN MULLEN: You know what you never know in your career. I think every day, I never thought of, okay, this is where I have to -- where I'm going to end up, because you know, that's not always stuff you control. I've always been someone, I try to worry about what you control. And every day, wake up and control and be the best coach I can be every single day because I can control that. I can't control everything else.
I know, I think Friday afternoon, Scott reached out to me, and you know, just said, hey, I want to touch base with you, see if you'd be interested in speaking to me about the position here. I said yeah -- maybe different than some things because Scott and I have worked together before.
I mean, the initial phone call, like the formality is, hey, I'm Scott Stricklin, I'm going to introduce myself to you; probably different than maybe some introductory phone calls.
I said, "Absolutely I'd be interested in speaking to you." But a lot of the conversation, I said, "Hey, I'm in a good situation. I'm not actively out pursuing jobs, but the opportunity to come coach here at the University of Florida is something that would really interest me."
He said, "Great," and I know he had a lot going on. There was still a game to be played. I was sitting watching games on Saturday and trying to -- I love watching ball, so I was watching some of the games.
You know, all of a sudden, I pick up my phone and there's Scott and he said -- we spent some more time on the phone together. I said, "I would like to move this forward and get serious about it."
And so we had several different conversations, really, the rest of the day and that night into both of us making sure that we were both comfortable; that we were both comfortable with me being the head coach here and the standards and expectations and what we expect out of each other.
I think we have a great working relationship and we've worked well together before, of just understanding how it's going to work here and that we're both a great fit together. I think Saturday night, we decided that would be the case. I think we both felt great about it and more importantly, I think we both woke up Sunday morning and felt even better about it.
I wanted to make sure I woke up Sunday morning and I was even more excited than I was Saturday night, and I was. I couldn't wait to get going and fortunately I woke up and there was already a missed call from Scott Stricklin, and he was still really excited about me coming. We made it work.
Q. Maybe it's too soon, but what's your sense for what you're inheriting here?
DAN MULLEN: You know what, one of the hard thing is -- I don't know, because we didn't play against Florida last year, and really didn't see a lot of crossover film on them.
The great thing about that is I'm not judging anything. When we get back, I'm going to look at the grades from this semester. That's going to be a really big factor for me to start with the team, No. 1.
And then No. 2 is everybody, in my book, has a clean slate to go prove themselves. I told the team, I chose them. They didn't choose me; I chose them. I guaranteed them that I will earn their respect.
But I promised them, they will earn my respect, as well, before they are able to put on that uniform and go represent our university out there on that football field and that was very, very important to me and that's going to be done through academics and through the effort they start giving in the off-season, and everyone has a clean slate to go start over and show what they can be.
Q. I think UF has had two losing seasons since 1980 and they are both in the last five years. How big a task is it to get the program back to an elite level?
DAN MULLEN: I think for us, there's a mindset. There's a mindset and a standard of expectation here. I think that's one of the reasons I'm here. The program wasn't at the expectation level of the fan base, of everybody involved in the Gator Nation and so that's why I'm here.
That's the challenge for me. I love challenges. I absolutely love it. And I have as high of expectations as anybody in this room for what this program is going to be like. You know, when people ask for timetables: I have high expectations for next season, I do, and I have no idea what type of team we have. I haven't seen anybody play or take a snap or run one step or tackle anybody.
But I'm going to promise you, I have extremely high expectations for our program next season and I'll continue to have them from one year to the next.
It's a new challenge for everybody in college football because we have an early signing day coming up, and recruiting is the lifeblood of the program.
You know, when I was here, ten years ago, we were blessed to have some truly spectacular players. I mean, it's fun calling plays when Tim Tebow is your quarterback and he's throwing the ball out to a Percy Harvin or a Louis Murphy or a Bubba Caldwell, right.
And the defensive guys: When you have a Joe Haden out there covering field, a Brandon Spikes hitting people at linebacker. You look at some of the talent we had here, it was special, and we have to do a great job recruiting to get that level of player back here to lead us back to championships.
Q. And you know, two different men have stood in the same spot you have over the past seven years, having big plans and expectations. What makes you feel like this is going to be different, because you know the culture here, your expectations, your quarterback development? What things would you pinpoint?
DAN MULLEN: I think everything: How we run the program. I think I have a pretty successful plan of how we run our program from top to bottom.
Also I've been very fortunate throughout my coaching career, and I understand, there's an outline. There's not a defined book or a plan. It's an outline. And that outline of what you do within your program, it's very flexible from one program to the next.
I was blessed during my coaching career to be one of the first guys hired by Urban Meyer at Bowling Green State University; I was one of the first guys hired at the University of Utah; one of the first guys hired at the University of Florida, and then go take over my own program and see how the outline works and how you can apply the outline.
But also, during that timeframe, to understand that the specifics change depending on the school you're at, depending on the environment our at and how you apply that outline to be successful.
I think the outline works. The great thing is that I have experience to know how some of the particulars of that outline are going to work here at this program. We are at a place where we have unbelievable facilities. I know there's plans for even better facilities to be -- to have the premiere facilities in America.
We have an unbelievable passionate fan base. We have a tremendous winning tradition, and we are in a state surrounded by great high school football players that we can go get.
And also, when you have that Gator on your chest, just about every player in the country wants to listen to what you have to say because of what this program represents and the history of the program and what was bit here before us.
What we'll do is we are going to come in and take the guys that are here, can't wait to see them. I saw there are a lot of excited faces in that team meeting today. I think guys that are probably ready to get to work, ready to get going.
And now they have to actually take a little bit of a break before that starts cranking up and they are going to buy in, and we'll make sure they buy into our program 100 percent to perform out there on the field.
And then we're going to put a staff together to go recruit not just great football players but high-character guys that will have a tremendous work ethic and a desire to improve and be developed throughout their career.
Those are the type of players we're looking for here at the University of Florida, and we are going to go make sure we get them and develop them to the levels that we expect to win at.
Q. Can you discuss just kind of your philosophy in the quarterback recruiting? Obviously as a spread coach, a lot of people just assume that dual-threat is what you go for, but you've signed and started pro-style quarterbacks before. How will you go about evaluating the talent and going from there?
DAN MULLEN: You know what is really important is winning. I have enough offensive background, I think we can create an offense around some skill-sets at quarterbacks because if you look at all the different quarterbacks that I've had throughout the years, there's not a prototype. They are all different shapes and sizes with different skill-sets and we've still been successful with them.
So to me, No. 1, it starts with mental and physical toughness, because that's the guy that is the leader of your program. You know, they have to -- playing quarterback here, at the University of Florida, those are pretty big shoes to fill, right.
There's a couple of really nice trophies that they give out for the play of quarterbacks that have been here. There's a couple of championship trophies that our quarterbacks expect to lead us to that are here in this building.
So they have to understand, have that mental and physical toughness, to able to handle what it takes to be here and to lead this team and set that standard and set that bar extremely high for our players. They have to have tremendous leadership.
The quarterback is the leader. If you take everybody, if you took a football team, and I took a bunch of guys and recruits and put them in the room, okay, and we take a signing class and none of the know each other; and everybody gets up and says, hey, I'm So-and-So, and this is the position I play; and I hand them a piece of paper and say, okay, vote for our leader, they are going to vote the quarterback.
So you have to be a tremendous leader. I want somebody that, you know what, when that team walks into the huddle, all they are looking at is saying, hey, we have him so we can win. We have him so we can win.
After that, you go to decision making, which I think is one of the hardest thing to evaluate at the quarterback decision which is the processing of information. How fast can they profess information; how fast can it go from their eyes to their brain or their arms or their legs or whatever decision they have to make.
Because it's one thing talking about football or drawing up plays on a board. But when you have about 1.2 seconds before a 300-pound guy is about to hit you right in the face, it's really important how you can process everything that's going on out there on that field, and so that's critical.
Intelligence is extremely important. The smarter the quarterbacks are, the more we can do. I'd rather them not look over to the sidelines after they say hut. I'd rather them already know what they are checking to do and they already know what to do, instead of hut-hut and just look for me to go do it for them. I want them to know what to do out there on the field.
And then I get into throwing and running. Throwing is more important than running, or are you going to have everybody just standing on the line of scrimmage; you have to be able to throw. Accuracy, over anything else, because you want to be accurate with your throws.
And then if you can run, that's a bonus, because that means you can improvise and make some special things happen when the play breaks down.
But I have a different way of maybe looking at quarterbacks and trying to find them. And if you want to put it in one word, it's winners, okay. Because every quarterback that I've had, they are a winner. If you want to take Alex Smith out of the Kansas City Chiefs, he's probably running a corporation somewhere or he's a doctor or a lawyer. If you take Tim Tebow, if you want to describe Tim Tebow in a word, a lot of people'd pick winner; winner is going to be up there. There's not much he's going to be able to do that he doesn't win at.
Chris Leak was a winner here for us, won. Dak Prescott's is a winner. And it's not just at football. That's their personalities at life; that whatever they are going to do, they are going to be successful at.
Q. You've said that you feel like you've changed and developed in the nine years since you've been here. There's been a lot of talk around here about the white hot intensity of this particular job that you have. Is it something that you discussed with Scott, with your family, talked to Urban about? And I know the fan base in Starkville is certainly rabid, but is it something that can prepare you for this and is it something that you talked to your family, talked to Scott, maybe talked to Steve?
DAN MULLEN: Absolutely. I discussed with everybody, and I understand it. I've been a head coach in the Southeastern Conference now for nine years, and I understand the scrutiny that you're under here and the expectation of a fan base. It's a lot of places in this league.
I will say, you know, I think the passion here is not unique to the universe I of Florida when you talk in terms of Southeastern Conference football. To plug the network, it just means more. It's a way of life. It does. It just means more. And people that haven't been involved might not understand that. But having been an assistant coach in this league for four years and a head coach in this league for nine years, I certainly understand, and having a lot of friends in this profession and friends at other schools, you do have a camaraderie with other coaches.
And as you talk and as you discuss -- I have a perfect understanding of the scrutiny, the attention that you're under, your family's under and the pressures that you're under with the expectations to succeed when you're a coach in the Southeastern Conference.
Q. One of the things Scott mentioned in introducing you is your track record with quarterbacks. Developing a quarterback is not something that has not happened since you left. What do you attribute the success you've had to?
DAN MULLEN: A lot of people. When I started coaching, I had a folder as an assistant coach, you know, of things I would do the same or differently and with every program that I was at, I studied it a lot. I studied the game a lot. I'd study different quarterbacks a lot.
I'd read a lot of just different quarterback technique books and all of those things. To be honest with you, there's no substitute for experience. I was very fortunate, I got to start at Bowling Green State University where -- nothing against the Mid American Conference, but you're not under that scrutiny that you're under here.
So you can make some mistakes in coaching there and I'm sure I've made plenty (laughs). And probably the biggest thing I can attribute my development of quarterbacks to and who I've learned most from, is my quarterbacks.
It's from being a I young coach and getting fired up on the sidelines. And I'll always still remember to this day, Josh Harris, the quarterback of Bowling Green, looking at me. And I'm going off, and he's like, "Are you going to stop yelling?" He's like, "I want to win more than you do, so if you don't have anything productive to say, you might as well shut up right now." (Laughter).
And I learned that day. I learned that day. I was getting emotional about it instead of coaching. You know what, he wants to win. Everybody wants to win. The players, they compete to win and so I learned that day, you know, and I constantly even learn to this day.
I'll call Alex Smith, I'll call Dak Prescott and say, okay, what's Coach Reid teaching, you what's Coach Reid teaching you; what's Coach Linehan of the Cowboys, what are you getting into; Coach Wilson, what's their staff teaching you that I'm not; is there anything new that you're learning or doing, anything that you're doing on your own or that you've learned to help yourself out that I can use and put in my toolbox and help coach and develop these quarterbacks.
I've been very fortunate to coach guys that have that belief and they are committed to develop. Listen, you can't just -- I've been very fortunate to coach very talented guys, but you can't just wave a wand and fix anybody. I've coached guys that were committed to excellence, committed every day to being the absolute best they can be, and those guys are fun to coach. You know what, if you hire somebody that is committed to being the best that you can be and with an unbelievable work ethic, you're going to constantly improve and I've been fortunate to coach those guys that have had that desire to improve.
Q. Now that you've taken the job, what's your immediate priority the next couple days, couple weeks, when it comes to staff hires, recruiting?
DAN MULLEN: Recruiting is going to go over the top of everything. I'll evaluate some of the staff that's here. I'm sure we're going to have some staff changes and none of that is going to be finalized, really, probably till after the new year with everything going on, until we can get our final staff in place, if you will.
But most important to me right now is recruiting, is touching base with all the players that are committed, all the players that we are recruiting and getting on the road and getting players in here that can help us win championships.
Q. And you mentioned some of your former players from your previous stint here. How big of an emphasis will you put in getting those guys back involved in the program?
DAN MULLEN: That's critical to our success. There's nobody that knows the standards and expectations of Florida football than the former players. You're talking about guys that have sacrificed four to five years; that completed committed themselves to excellence on that field; that took pride in wearing that helmet and wearing that jersey.
I know we have an unbelievably passionate fan base, but I'm going to tell you, those guys that have done it, that have been here, that have put this program where it is, those guys, you know, are even more passionate about it and they understand it.
So it's critical to have them around, have them around our players and have them there to lean on for advice, but also to have them around to make sure that our players understand what the standard of expectations are here at the University of Florida.
Q. You called this the best job in America. How important is it for the coach to be a program at a job that he cherishes, that he wants, that he desires? You were at Mississippi State for nine years; just developing some coaching stability here?
DAN MULLEN: I was very fortunate. I think a lot of the success at Mississippi State was based on stability, based on having an administration, both athletic and university administration, that were well aligned; that we had a plan, and we're aligned on how to accomplish the goals we wanted to accomplish.
We weren't perfect the whole time there. We had some ups and downs, a lot more ups I think than downs historically, but we had everybody in alignment and there was great stability and everybody understood what our vision was and what our focus was on how to get us to succeed in the future. So I think that is important.
I don't know, I think as a coach, you put so much into it, to me. I have two responsibilities: My family and this football program. Those are my responsibilities in life and you put so much into it, that I don't know how you could be at a place you don't love and you're not excited about being.
For me to be here at a dream job; when you're 14, 15 years old watching Florida play, and you know, I all remember that Thanksgiving game weekend. I grew up in New Hampshire so it's snowing and freezing cold outside, and there's Coach Spurrier with his visor on in the sunshine, and it's beautiful and what am I doing here in New Hampshire.
But to see that and have that opportunity to live that dream is just something special. You know what, makes it pretty easy for me to get up every morning and completely commit myself to the success of this program because I'm here living my dream and I get to do it and it makes it pretty easy to get up and be motivated to go do that.
Q. Three real quick ones. When Jeff Collins came here, you referred to it as a lateral move. Was that coach speak?
DAN MULLEN: Yeah, you know, I'm pretty passionate about everywhere I'm at, you know.
Q. Secondly, what's your policy on practice open to the media or fans?
DAN MULLEN: We're going to look into that at different times. I think one of the things and I'm going to work with everybody on it, different times a year, we'll have different policies. I would imagine this spring, we'll have open practices just so everybody can get accustomed to us and us as a football program.
But different times and different years, and different teams; my responsibility is to get the team prepared. So, you know, when you have open practices to both media and fans, sometimes that can become a distraction.
I know for the fans and for the media, you might view it differently but it becomes a distraction for the team, and I have to do what's best to get this team prepared to go play and do what's best for the program.
I'm going to work with everybody on that one. You know what, it might change from year-to-year or preseason to spring ball to different times during game weeks, it will always change depending on what I feel it's going to be in the best interests of the football team.
Q. And third, there's only about 20 people that care about the answer to this question in here: Do you allow your freshmen to talk to the media?
DAN MULLEN: After they play a game.
DAN MULLEN: So once they play in a game -- I think like anybody, I think getting in and standing up in front of media and addressing the program, you are representing not just our current football team, but you're representing all of the football players and Gators everywhere.
So I want to make sure you've earned that right to step on the field; that you've earned that right and you've played on that field and you've been out there, and at least sacrificed a little bit on game day before you get up and are able to share whatever you have to share with the media.
Q. I don't want to be a buzzkill because we're glad to have you back and enjoyed the press conference. One other thing, much has been made about your better half's comments about the unrealistic expectations of the fan base. What would you say to just move beyond that and get that out of the way?
DAN MULLEN: I think as you look at quotes and obviously you know, in the media, that was taken in the context of talking about the pressures of what it is to be a wife of a coach in the Southeastern Conference.
And I think as Megan addressed it, as, you know what, we certainly understand the pressures and expectations and standards here of what it is to be the head coach at the University of Florida because we understood what it was even to be a coordinator here.
I know that -- I can guarantee you this. I mean, if Megan didn't pick Florida, we wouldn't be at Florida (Laughter). I think I'm a good coach and I think I'm smart in some ways, but definitely am smart enough to know that that decision is certainly coming from the top down (Laughter). This could be my dream all I want, but that decision's coming from the top down.
I think it just shows that she does -- we loved our time here when we were here before. I know the whole family, we can't be more thrilled to be back here and I think we do, you know, understand what it is, the lifestyle we're walking into here as a family.
And it does, it takes a toll. I think coaches everywhere, I think one of the hardest things don't realize is coaches everywhere, I'll be in here early in the morning and I'll be here until late at night and I'm worried about our guys playing hard at practice and watching film.
I'm not all at the grocery stores. I'm not always out around town. I'm not in school picking up the kids in line, the kids going to school. And they are around the passionate fan base a lot more than maybe I am on a daily basis, and I think they certainly understand what it is and the expectations people have here as the football coach.
I think one thing, I will say this, is that for Gators everywhere, and it will happen pretty quickly, they will realize, hey, we really would like Coach to come meet with this group or we would like Dan to come speak to this group; and that will turn very quickly to we'd much rather have Megan come speak because everybody likes her a lot more than you; so we want to have her around and have her be involved with everything in the program.
I will say this, she does understand, and she does understand her responsibility here and the importance of her role within this program.
This is a family decision and it's a family position, being a head football coach at the University of Florida at a school of this magnitude, is a family job, and I know she's more prepared than anybody I know.
Q. It's been a challenge in the SEC and including here this year, the credit card issue that derailed the season before it even started. What kind of tone do you want to set and what are your expectations there, and are you driving that message home immediately with those guys, given they are going to have a lot of time on their hands coming up?
DAN MULLEN: Absolutely. We addressed some of that today. Discipline is really important to me as a program and doing things right.
Now, I'm someone that's going to handle every -- I don't have a book that I just go rely on. I want to handle every incident individually because there's usually more to the story than just this one thing happened.
I like to find out what happened, find out why it happened and find out what the effect it, finds out what the effect is on that young person's life is as we're applying discipline. A lot of it comes to is it a mistake or is it a core value issue, is it a problem -- you know, everybody makes mistakes.
Everybody in life makes mistakes. And our job, these are -- I think people look at a lot of these athletes, especially college football players, and they are put on a pretty big pedestal and they are in a pretty big spotlight, and I think a lot of people forget sometimes, they are 18- to 22-year-olds. I think if everybody in this room can think of their time in college, they can probably pick out one or two things that they probably made a couple of poor decisions in college. I can but I'm not going to get into the specifics of those at this time (chuckles).
You know, one of the things for me is, is it a mistake or was that a core value issue; was it something that you intentionally went out to do the wrong thing. That's a much bigger problem.
But I know that I will always investigate everything thoroughly and handle discipline pretty severely because I think it's important for our team to understand the standards and expectations of this team.
I told Dr. Fox: I'm going to give him and the Gator Nation a team that they can be proud of both on and off the field. That's how we carry ourselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not just on Saturdays. You have a great responsibility when you're going to be a member of this football program and it carries beyond this field and it might be a greater responsibility than the regular student body has.
You're living under different expectations and different standards than other people but that's part of the responsibility of wearing that uniform and being a part of this program.
Q. You mentioned Coach Spurrier a few times today. How do you plan on taking advantage of having him in the offices, seeking his input on X's and O's, running the program, stuff like that?
DAN MULLEN: I got to go up in his office today and he's got the computer open and he's got game film up. I love ball and he loves ball. So I'm sure we'll have some really interesting ball decisions in there talking football.
It's unbelievable to have somebody of that knowledge. To me, it's unbelievable, not just somebody to have the football knowledge that he has, be able to come in and talk about it; the head coaching knowledge he has and dealing with situations and player issues throughout the year. But even more importantly than that, somebody that loves the University of Florida through and through and understands everything about this program and this university and what it stands for.
As a head coach, to have that there, to have that there, to have that available, I think it's fantastic. I mean, I'd be shocked if I don't come in from practice and I don't have a, you know -- well, why are we doing this, right. I'd be disappointed if I didn't have -- you know what I mean (Laughter).
I don't know if there's a place in the country where you can have somebody with the experience and knowledge that he has that's right upstairs from me that wants to be around the program and wants to be involved in the program and loves everything about the program.
I feel blessed. I've known Coach since I was here as an assistant coach. The first time I walk into the SEC meetings, and believe it or not, the head coaches meeting when you get there to the SEC meeting, there's some egos in that room. You wouldn't think that but there are a couple.
Coach was nice enough to pull up a chair and say, "Hey, Dan, come sit next to me right here," and I sat down next to him at that meeting. He probably doesn't remember that, but that's something that you remember as a young coach of people that help and mentor you, and I continue -- hopefully to continue to be mentored by him.
Q. You mentioned the staff won't be finalized till the first of the year, but do you have a short list of coordinators you have in mind?
DAN MULLEN: Yes, I do and hopefully we'll have some of that done sooner rather than later to have some of our coordinators in place.
I think I'll have some of my assistant coaches in place in the next two weeks, and possibly finalize it after the Bowl game. There's a lot of people still playing football right now.
Q. I know it's a ways away, but September 29, you'll be going back to Starkville to play them. Just what is that going to be like and how do you feel that's going to play out?
DAN MULLEN: You know, that will be a tough game. Emotional in some ways to have to go back there, you know what I mean. To be honest with you, and to me, I'm a competitor, I mean, I'm worried about us winning. That's it.
But emotional when you look across the field and you know the personal relationships that you have with every one of those players that are out there on the field, and those guys and knowing what they have gone through; the hard work they have put in to get to this stage in their life, and a lot of them maybe have overcome in their life to get there.
So I think that will be emotional, emotional that way to have to go against them. But you know, concern No. 1 is going to be winning the football game.
Q. You said you learn from your quarterbacks. You must have learned from Tim Tebow. What did he tell you about this job, and what advice did he have and did you talk to him the last couple of days?
DAN MULLEN: I talked to him, I think as it progressed Saturday afternoon, I talked to him. Tim was unbelievable, you know what I mean. Tim is like a family member to me in our family. Every Thanksgiving, he's at my house when I was here, every Thanksgiving, he was at dinner for Thanksgiving dinner.
He's kind of a family member. Even we found a way to get an old NCAA Football on eBay to play on the computer, and knowing Tim as a competitor, Tim was over at the house, the SEC Nation one night. And all I heard, "Tim, you threw another pick." He started yelling at the game. (Laughter).
You know what, I think Tim loves the University of Florida, knows how special a place it is. But also, more of our discussion, was not about that, but was what's best for me and the family.
Really that was the discussion than how great a place Florida is and what we can accomplish and all of those things. It was much more based off of discussion about what's best for me and what's best for Megan and the kids and the family. That's just because that type of relationship that Tim and I have and that we have with the family, so it goes way beyond football, that relationship.
Thank y'all so much. Look forward to working with y'all. Go Gators.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports