GAINESVILLE – It's been nine years since Dan Mullen left Florida, and he was thrilled to return here Monday as the Gators' new coach.
"So fun to be back," Mullen said. "It is so fun to be back."
Mullen was formally introduced Monday, a day after he officially left Mississippi State. Mullen was a UF assistant from 2005-08, where he helped win two national titles. He was wearing one of those championship rings during his introductory news conference.
Mullen's deal is a six-year contract for $6 million annually. The Gators paid a $500,000 buyout to Mississippi State. Mullen's contract has a $12 million buyout, or whatever is left on the deal (if smaller than $12 million).
Mullen said he understands the sky-high expectations here.
"I accept that," said Mullen, a 45-year-old New Hampshire native.
Mullen said the UF job first became a realistic possibility Friday afternoon – a day after his Bulldogs ended their 8-4 season with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. Mullen said UF athletic director Scott Stricklin called to gauge his interest. By Saturday night, a deal was pretty much in place.
"Dan was always a name that came up," Stricklin said. "It was really fascinating to hear some of the perspectives. Universally, everyone I talked to is like, he checks a lot of boxes."
Mullen had other opportunities to leave Starkville, where he brought the Bulldogs to new heights, well above their history as an SEC West doormat. This time, it made sense for him and his wife to move.
"I know Megan and I have worked really hard over the last nine years at a football program, at building it up," Mullen said. "We certainly were ready and excited for a new challenge…
"I don't know if there's anywhere I'd rather be than here."
Mullen said his first priority will be recruiting, especially with an early signing period beginning next month. He hopes to have his coaching staff finalized in January.