University of Florida head coach Dan Mullen is in his third season in charge of the Gators. Since he arrived in Gainesville, Florida has put together two impressive 10-plus win seasons. Coming into this season, expectations were high and it was reflected in the polls with a No. 8 preseason ranking. After two impressive wins to start the season, the Florida Gators moved their way up to No. 3.
Following a loss to Texas A&M on the road in a stadium with limited fans in attendance, Mullen referenced those same fans in his postgame press conference and how he hoped that the 90,000-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium would be packed for the upcoming home contest against LSU. Mullen’s comments raised eyebrows with so many experts advising against large crowds gathering during the middle of a pandemic. Mullen reaffirmed his position multiple times since his original comments. Karma has since responded.
Dan Mullen leads Florida Gators into 2020 season
Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators opened the 2020 season on the road against Ole Miss with an impressive 51-35 victory. The following week, the Gators returned home to The Swamp to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Following an announcement the university made in September, there would be no tailgating and a limited crowd in attendance, 20% of the 88,548 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, or 17,000. The actual paid attendance for the game was just over 15,000.
The Gators, under the leadership of senior quarterback Kyle Trask and his four touchdown tosses, defeated the Gamecocks 38-24 and improved to 2-0 on the young season. The team also ascended to the No. 3 spot in the AP rankings.
Dan Mullen’s comments after A&M loss raise eyebrows and concerns
On Saturday, the Florida Gators played on the road against Texas A&M. Kyle Field was restricted to a 25% capacity, or just north of 25,000 fans, although photos indicated the numbers were likely higher.
The Aggies trailed by 11 in the third quarter when the team began to rally and the fans came to life. Trask and the Gators offense appeared to struggle at times due to crowd noise incurring penalties and burning timeouts. Texas A&M fed off that energy and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning field goal as time expired. Following the contest, Gators coach Dan Mullen expressed frustration with his team’s performance and couldn’t help but mention the crowd’s influence.
“They made a lot of plays they needed to, made one more than we did,” Mullen said. “It was a great day of football, great atmosphere here. Crowd was certainly a factor in the game, I will certainly say that.”
“So I certainly hope our university administration follows the governor. The governor has passed a rule that we’re allowed to pack the Swamp and have 90,000 in the Swamp to give us the home-field advantage Texas A&M had today.”
Florida Gators have virus outbreak
On Monday, Dan Mullen was asked again by reporters if he wanted to clarify his remarks made following Saturday’s game and whether or not he really wanted to have 90,000 fans in the stadium.
“I think Texas A&M actually, they created a great atmosphere at the game, created an exciting atmosphere, you know?,” Mullen said. “I thought they did a great job of doing that. … I haven’t talked to people because I’ve been really focused on trying to beat LSU.”
On Tuesday, crowd size and trying to beat LSU were the least of Dan Mullen’s concerns. That’s because 19 players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. All football activities were put indefinitely on hold.
“Head coach Dan Mullen has been in communication with football players and their parents, and I have had conversations with the Southeastern Conference office, last week’s opponent Texas A&M, and this week’s opponent LSU,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “These circumstances will be re-evaluated by UF Health and the athletic department’s sports medicine staff Wednesday.”
It was a bizarre turn of events for the Gators and one where Mullen became the punchline of the college football world. Whether or not the Gators host LSU is still very much up in the air. One thing, however, is very clear. Karma wins every time.