Florida fired coach Dan Mullen on Sunday, becoming the latest college football job to open this offseason. Mullen’s tenure ends after an overtime loss at Missouri dropped the Gators to 5-6 this year. The Gators won the SEC East last fall and went 34-15 under Mullen’s watch. However, that wasn’t enough to save his job, as the program was trending in the wrong direction this year, and recruiting has been a major concern. Assistant Greg Knox is expected to serve as the program’s interim coach for the regular season finale against Florida State.
Who could replace Mullen at Florida? Here are eight names to watch in the coaching search:
8 Coaching Candidates to Replace Dan Mullen at Florida
Matt Campbell, Head Coach, Iowa State
Campbell hasn’t spent any time in the SEC and isn’t necessarily looking to jump to a major job. But like all of the coaches on this list, Florida should inquire about his interest. Campbell went 35-15 at Toledo (2011-15) before taking over at Iowa State – one of the most difficult Power 5 jobs in college football – in ’16. The Cyclones went 3-9 in Campbell’s first year but have posted five consecutive seasons of at least six victories. Iowa State played for the Big 12 title, won the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 9 nationally in ’20.
Mario Cristobal, Head Coach, Oregon
Cristobal has a great job at Oregon and could be a candidate if Miami decides to part with Manny Diaz. He’s 34-12 since taking over in Eugene, which includes a 12-2 mark in 2019 and a 9-2 mark through 11 games this year. Cristobal has guided Oregon to two Pac-12 titles and is a win away from returning to the conference title game. Additionally, Cristobal is regarded as an excellent recruiter, which would no doubt play well in the SEC.
Luke Fickell, Head Coach, Cincinnati
Fickell is a native of Ohio and isn’t in any hurry to leave Cincinnati. However, the Gators would be wise to inquire about whether or not he has interest. Fickell is 46-14 at Cincinnati and has the program on the cusp of a CFB Playoff appearance. Additionally, the Bearcats are 31-4 over the last four years and finished No. 8 nationally in the top 25 after an appearance in the Peach Bowl in ’20.
James Franklin, Head Coach, Penn State
Franklin's name popped up in the rumor mill for openings at LSU and USC and it wouldn't be a surprise if he was mentioned here. However, all signs out of Happy Valley seem to indicate he won't be leaving for another job this offseason. Could Florida's opening change that thinking? Franklin is 67-32 since taking over at Penn State and previously went 24-15 at Vanderbilt (2011-13).
Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, Ole Miss
Could the Gators look to another SEC coach to replace Mullen? Kiffin is one of the top minds on offense in the SEC and has guided the Rebels to a 14-7 mark since taking over in 2020. He previously went 26-13 at FAU (2017-20) and 28-15 at USC (2010-13).
Billy Napier, Head Coach, Louisiana
Napier is expected to be mentioned in every major coaching search this offseason. He’s 38-12 since taking over at Louisiana since 2018 season, which includes at least 10 victories in each of the last three years. Napier guided the Ragin’ Cajuns to a No. 15 finish in the final Associated Press poll in ’20 and has won the Sun Belt West Division in all four years at the helm.
Mark Stoops, Head Coach, Kentucky
Could another SEC head coach get in the mix at Florida? Stoops is a name to watch after leading Kentucky to a 57-53 mark since 2013. The Wildcats had three losing seasons to start Stoops' tenure but have made six (counting '21) consecutive bowl games. Kentucky finished 10-3 overall and No. 12 nationally in '18 and earned a 5-3 mark in SEC play this season.
Mel Tucker, Head Coach, Michigan State
Tucker is reportedly on the verge of a massive contract extension at Michigan State. But could this opening interest the former Georgia and Alabama assistant? Tucker is 11-7 through two years with the Spartans, helping the program show massive improvement in '21 after a 2-5 finish in the abbreviated '20 campaign.