Dan Mullen’s been where Kirby Smart is.
Mullen was hired at Mississippi State on Dec. 11, 2008, and he didn’t go back to Gainesville until Christmas Eve. He missed Florida’s first few bowl practices for the BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma because he was already working at Mississippi State. He no longer needed to attend Florida’s recruiting meetings because he was now recruiting against them.
“If it was just a regular bowl game, I don’t know if they would’ve wanted me back,” he said, “and I don’t know if I would’ve wanted to do that.”
Because it was for a national title, though, the Gators wanted their OC and quarterbacks coach calling the plays — and Mullen didn’t want to miss it.
“To be in a national championship game, the first thought that goes through your mind is, I want to finish what I’ve started,” he said. “You have a chance to win a championship, especially for the players more than anything. You want to be there for the guys you recruited and the coaches who helped you get there.”
Mullen not only had to balance the two, he had to do so at a time when his wife was seven months pregnant.
For him and Tom Herman, they managed to make a go of things and win rings. For Mark Richt, not so much, as Bobby Bowden somewhat sourly recounts.
Richt had been hired as head coach at Georgia, and was trying to adjust to that role while preparing the Seminoles for the No. 1-ranked Sooners in the Orange Bowl. It didn’t turn out so well, as Florida State lost 13-2.
“No. 1, we didn’t score a touchdown,” Bowden said. “I think I’ve heard [Richt] say he felt like he was unable to do the job he wanted to do under those circumstances. He did the best he could. There’s no doubt about it. He worked as hard as he could, but there’s no doubt they are distracted on something like this. You’re playing for a national championship, man, you need 100 percent attention.”
Maybe that was more a reflection of the head coach than the assistant. Just sayin’ … it worked out at Florida and Ohio State.