The Florida Gators needed a new coach and a proven offensive mind in the worst way, and in Dan Mullen, they think they have found him.
For that, they will pay — to the tune of $36 million.
Per a Monday report from Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun, the Gators’ pact with Mullen is for six years and $36 million, a new high-water mark for any University of Florida coach.
Dooley also reports that Mississippi State did not require much to relinquish its right to Mullen:
Florida also got off cheap on Mullen’s buyout from Mississippi State, only having to pay $500,000.
That’s still more than Mullen’s publicly understood buyout of nothing, of course, but Florida giving Mississippi State half a million dollars to expedite a $36 million transaction wouldn’t exactly be an egregious misuse of money, given the scale.
Mullen made $4.5 million at Misssisippi State for the 2016-17 year, so this represents a substantial raise for him — and he’ll now be earning his income in a state with no income tax, instead of paying the five percent that Mississippi collects from wage-earners making more than $10,000 a year.
For Florida, this is also a substantial, unparalleled investment in a coach.
While salaries have skyrocketed in the last decade as TV revenues have soared, it’s instructive to note that Mullen will be making more in 2017 dollars than Urban Meyer or Billy Donovan made on average in 2017 dollars in their final deals from Florida — here is an inflation calculator — and that those coaches won two national championships as head coaches while at Florida. And Mullen was making very slightly more at Mississippi State than what Jim McElwain made at Florida — which was already more than Florida had ever paid Meyer in its own right.
Tellingly, it’s also a lot more than what UCLA will pay Chip Kelly to be its head coach. The Bruins’ deal with Kelly is reportedly for just $23.3 million over five years, and even with a significant buyout does not reach the total or average value of Mullen’s deal.
It’s likely — given what I’ve seen reported and heard in my own right — that Kelly opted for UCLA over Florida for reasons that amounted to Kelly sensing a better fit for himself in Westwood than in Gainesville, but knowing that Florida is paying a coach other than Kelly more than Kelly is making (in a state with sky-high income taxes) certainly reinforces the idea that Florida being cheap was emphatically not part of the reason Kelly did not end up with the Gators.
Whether Mullen will end up “earning” or “deserving” this level of compensation in the eyes of fans or Florida’s administration remains to be seen, and it’s possible that our understanding of the deal will change with more reporting and/or the formal release of his contract. But he’s getting it — and now he will be expected to get wins.