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Gators fire head coach Dan Mullen after stunning fall

Florida has lost 6 of last 9 games
Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen before game at Missouri Tigers in 2021
Posted at 2:01 PM, Nov 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-21 18:45:41-05

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida has fired coach Dan Mullen, a day after his sixth loss in nine games.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin announced the move Sunday, less than 24 hours after Florida's 24-23 loss to Missouri in overtime.

Running backs coach and special teams coordinator Greg Knox will serve as interim coach for the regular-season finale against rival Florida State. Both teams need a win in order to become bowl eligible.

Mullen's stunning downfall ends a tumultuous two seasons that included mounting losses, numerous public relation missteps, NCAA sanctions and a debacle against lower-division Samford.

The Gators (5-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) began this season ranked No. 13 in the preseason Associated Press poll and nearly upset defending national champion Alabama at home in September, but they haven't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision school since Oct. 9 and are just 5-9 dating back to last season, when Florida finished on a three-game losing streak.

Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen looks at players as they walk off field in fourth quarter at Missouri Tigers in 2021
Florida head coach Dan Mullen looks at his players as they walk off the field during the fourth quarter of a game against Missouri, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Columbia, Mo.

Stricklin wanted to give Mullen every chance to turn things around, but it became clear Mullen was losing support of top administrators, key boosters and even the most loyal fans.

Stricklin said during a Sunday afternoon news conference that he informed Mullen of his decision during a meeting in Mullen's office shortly before noon.

"He understood," Stricklin said. "It was actually a very productive conversation."

Stricklin said he gave Mullen the opportunity to coach the home finale against the Seminoles, but Mullen decided he would be too much of a distraction.

"He actually took some time to think about it," Stricklin said.

Mullen fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy after a blowout loss at South Carolina, but he reiterated his confidence in his own ability to lead the Gators. Ultimately, it didn't seem to help.

Many Florida fans took umbrage with Mullen after he was seen smiling in Saturday's television broadcast immediately after the Gators lost to Missouri on a 2-point conversion in overtime.

Mullen, who served as offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer when the Gators won a pair of national championships in 2006 and 2008, finished with a 34-15 record at Florida.

During his tenure at Florida, Mullen won 21 SEC games and led the Gators to three New Year's Six bowls and the SEC Championship game in 2020.

The Gators, who finished with just two wins in SEC play for the first time since 1986, will pay Mullen a $12 million buyout.

Knox, who followed Mullen from Mississippi State to Florida in 2018,
served as interim coach of the Bulldogs in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.