ATLANTA — Dan Mullen wants to bring fun back to Florida, put more points on the board and put more fans in the seats.
Mullen, entering his first year as Gators coach after serving as the school’s offensive coordinator during national championship runs in 2006 and 2008, said Tuesday at SEC media days that “everything around the program needs to get back to being fun.”
“The players need to enjoy playing for Florida, the fans want to see points, they want to see wins,” Mullen said. “And they want to see consistency. … In the last four years, Florida’s had two four-win seasons and played for two SEC championships. That’s a roller-coaster, so I think the fun has to get into everybody getting back on the same page.”
Mullen spent much of his spring speaking tour challenging Florida fans to support the team, noting that during his first stint at Florida, the team averaged more than 90,000 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida averaged 86,715 fans last season, which ranked 11th in the FBS but down from 90,065 in 2015. The Gators went 4-7 last season after winning back-to-back SEC East division titles, despite offenses that ranked 107th and 100th nationally in scoring.
“If the energy in ‘The Swamp’ gets going, the Gators are hard to beat,” Mullen said. “If the energy in ‘The Swamp’ gets down, no one’s having fun. The players aren’t, the fans aren’t, and it just drains.”
He later added: “I’m the opposite of [President Donald] Trump in that I’m here to fill ‘The Swamp,’ not drain ‘The Swamp.'”
Mullen credited former Florida coach Steve Spurrier for creating the culture around the program of both fun and winning. Spurrier’s “Fun ‘n Gun” offense helped Florida to six SEC championships, 10 top-10 finishes and a national championship between 1991 and 2001.
The demand for offense continued when Mullen arrived with coach Urban Meyer in 2005.
“I’ve been here before,” he said. “In 2008, we [played] Miami, had one of the great offenses in Florida history, and we win [26-3]. ‘Oh, what’s wrong with the offense?’ We just beat Miami on a team that was going to go on and set all kinds of offensive records, and it was like immediately, ‘Uh oh, what’s wrong with the offense?'”
Florida offensive tackle Martez Ivey expects the energy and production with the offense to pick up right away under Mullen.
“Fans want to see an exciting offense,” Ivey said. “We’re always going to have a great defense, but they want to see an offense. I believe Mullen will come in and change that around and have an explosive offense.”