Recently — since Florida gave up 21 points to Georgia in three minutes by virtue of three turnovers in its own territory, if we’re being specific — and with Florida’s long-term trajectory in question, Dan Mullen’s future has become a topic of debate.
You and I have heard the questions, and the arguments they generate. Can Florida get to a national championship level under Mullen? Is Mullen the right coach to pilot Florida at a time when Alabama remains dominant and Georgia is ascendant, both programs being built by incredible recruiting success? If not Mullen, then who should lead the Gators?
One question I have not heard asked — and thus one argument I have not heard contested — is “Can Florida afford to fire Mullen?” and its subsequent squabble about how an entity with nine-figure annual revenues can afford to part ways with a coach.
Except, that is, as a pure straw man.
Yes Florida can afford it. Yes Florida is an elite job. Yes it's time to make a move. pic.twitter.com/OpSU1aWThk— Josh Pate (@LateKickJosh) November 15, 2021
There are no credible reports suggesting Florida is “haggling” over anything. “Some people” is the sort of hand-waving allusion to nothing and no one — an argumentum ad populum in which the populum is phantom — that the previous President and plenty of pundits used to state personal opinions or conclusions with the force of popularity behind them, regardless of any actual relation to truth. No one should be under the delusion that Florida cannot or does not “flex that SEC muscle” — specifically, the financial freedom granted by being one of those teams with a nine-figure revenue stream — when it wants, with Scott Stricklin using that freedom in part to pay Mullen an enormous salary and spend tens of millions on facilities upgrades to benefit its football program.
Yes, Florida can afford to fire Mullen. Yes, Florida is an elite job. No, those first two facts were not being debated — nor are they even necessarily directly related to whether it’s time for Florida to fire Mullen and make a move.
But this is how the sausage gets made. It is easier — and very likely liable to draw more eyeballs — to assert, without reporting, that Florida should do something that fans are clamoring for than it is to report, with sourcing, that Florida is undecided.
It is easier to bang on about how Mullen has “lost the fan base” than to acknowledge all that while also threading the needle between “Twitter is minimally representative of reality,” Florida still drawing some 70,000 fans to a game against Samford as a 4-5 team, and the average fan having precious little actual relevance to the decision-making process as it regards keeping Mullen, and coming to a deeply unsatisfying conclusion that punditry isn’t making much of a difference except to those who benefit from hearing their voices echo.
It is easier and more appealing to say you know what’s going to happen than to admit you don’t — but I admit that I don’t know what’s going to happen with Dan Mullen and Florida’s football program, both because it’s true and because I think I provide more value to you, the reader, by being honest about my uncertainty than by claiming faux authority.
I think we might all be better off if we stopped leaping to conclusions and admitted our suspicions are opinions and not facts — and further benefited by communal confession that something having happened before and something not having happened before does not mean it will or will not happen in the future. The past is prologue may be the saying, but that does not make the past prophecy.
I’m not holding my breath for either thing, though. And so I’m sure we’ll get many more of these exhalations of hot air into the wind.