GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Less than 48 hours after the Florida Gators lost a heartbreaker to the Missouri Tigers in overtime, the Gators are involved in their latest search for a head coach to return the team to prominence.
Mullen posted a 34-15 record at UF and his first three teams finished the season ranked in the top 10 in two of the four seasons he coached the Gators. But, after going 21-5 in his first two seasons, he went 13-10 before being shown the door by UF athletic director Scott Stricklin.
The Gators were on the decline this season after nearly pulling an upset of Alabama. Since that game, Florida posted a 3-5 record including a shootout win against a FCS team.
But with Mullen out of the way, all eyes turn to Stricklin. He's been the athletic director since 2016 and he'll be on his fifth head coach in that time (including interim head coaches).
The pressure is on Stricklin to get the hire right this time. UF's football team was once the cream of the crop in the SEC, especially the SEC East. But, the Gators have fallen far behind Georgia, and arguably Kentucky as well. With Missouri and Tennessee on an upswing with young coaches, Florida is in a precarious position in the money sport of football.
So who are the candidates that UF might seek to bring in to right the ship?
According to FootballScoop.com and other college football insiders, some of the names at the top of the list include Luke Fickell, Lane Kiffin, Billy Napier, Matt Campbell, Lincoln Riley, Mike Stoops, or Bob Stoops.
All but the last name in the list are currently head coaches and would require a buyout, but with UF being content to pay Mullen $12 million not to coach them; money doesn't seem to be an issue. Hiring Mike Stoops away from Kentucky would be a coup. Bringing Bob. Stoops back to UF to resurrect the program would also have nostalgia and championship pedigree at UF and Oklahoma.
Whoever Stricklin picks, he'll need to act fast once the coaching carousel starts to spin. UF, USC, and LSU all have head coaching openings and all three are considered blue blood college football programs. All will also be looking at the list of coaches rumored to be on the Gators' list.