The soundbite was maybe five seconds, so quick that if you turned your head to cough or check your text messages you may have missed it.
But those five seconds were oh so telling.
In his press conference today, Dan Mullen just admitted that he’s manipulated spring game attendance numbers before, and hinted that he could do it again:
“Maybe the attendance matches a score for a certain game in the season, something like that… maybe 41,014…”
For those of you who just became Gator fans in the last four months, that number is a direct reference to the 41-14 skull crushing that Mullen and Florida handed FSU in Tallahassee last November. The win simultaneously snapped a hat trick of FSU streaks: a five game winning streak over Florida, a 36 year streak of reaching a bowl game, and a 41 year winning season streak. So whether or not Seminole fans want to admit it, that game is a bit of a raw nerve for them.
Mullen knows that. So when he saw a chance to rub that in some more, he took it. Which could not be a more polar opposite of Florida’s previous two coaches.
I’m sure that Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain did the best that they could, but for the overwhelming majority of their tenures, it felt like they were employees of the University of Florida, as opposed to Florida Gators. Big, big difference. By contrast, Steve Spurrier, a Heisman winning quarterback for the Gators back in the day, was a Florida Gator. I’m not quite sure where Urban Meyer fits in there, but he did win two national championships so it’s hard to question his devotion to the Florida job while he had it.
But anyway: Mullen knows what it means to be a Florida Gator. He demonstrated as much by going for it on fourth down deep in Seminole territory late in the game with a 34-14 lead, and then by continuing to pound away with his starters on the ensuing drive when that fourth down conversion failed, which resulted in an unnecessary but highly enjoyable extra seven points. 41-14 sounds better in social media posts and recruits’ living rooms than 34-14 does, and Mullen made that happen.
Obviously, one year is not enough to crown Dan Mullen the greatest coach of all time or even think he might be, but at the very least, he’s demonstrated an understanding of what both the fans and the recruits want to see.