Scott Stricklin, the University of Florida's athletics director, touted his school's geographical and physical resources, among other elements, in outlining what Stricklin is seeking in the Gators' next head football coach.
Earlier Sunday, Stricklin fired fourth-year Florida coach Dan Mullen after Saturday's overtime-loss at Missouri dropped the Gators to 5-6 on the year and a loser in nine of their past 11 games against Power 5 competition.
“This is a place we want to win championships; we've won 251 SEC championships (across all sports),” Stricklin said. “We want someone that has high expectations and big aspirations that match the University of Florida. It's a top-five public university, and we think it's easily a top-five athletic program.”
The Gators twice had top-10 rankings under Mullen, but they have not finished inside the top-5 nationally since the 2009 season under Urban Meyer, his second-to-last campaign in The Swamp.
Stricklin singled out Florida's demographics – overall and in terms of homegrown-talent.
“This is a state of 21 million people,” Stricklin said, “that is one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country. We should have high expectations.”
Stricklin also has a three-pronged platform for what he would like to find in the Gators' next head coach.
“I think when you look at what makes a successful coach, there are three main components,” said Stricklin, who hired Mullen at Florida after the two had worked together in the same respective roles at Mississippi State. “The ability to lead a group, or team. The ability to put that team together. And third, the ability to coach that team.
“We look at recruiting as a really important part of that second function of putting a team together. We want somebody to attract the best staff to coach the best group of players.”
Stricklin said Florida doesn't have a defined timeline but admitted multiple external factors impact the process. The Gators join Southeastern Conference brethren LSU, as well as historic powerhouse University of Southern California, as three of college football's top programs all with vacancies at the same time.
“There's no timetable,” Stricklin said. “We want to take the time we need to get the right coach. I'd love to have one tomorrow (Monday), but that's probably not realistic. We will move as quickly as we can, use every available resource at our disposal.”
Stricklin did not rule out the Gators using a search firm to assist the search; when asked directly about a firm, Stricklin reiterated “We'll use every available resource.”
Timing is arguably more crucial in this coaching cycle that at any other point for myriad factors. In addition to those openings at the aforementioned college power programs, the early signing period opens Dec. 15 – just three weeks from Wednesday.
Additionally, the NCAA Transfer Portal is dynamically changing the sport – and all college sports, to an extent – as is Name, Image and Likeness measures passed earlier this year that allow student-athletes to earn income via third-party sources.
As for income already promised by Florida, Mullen is going to receive his entire buyout, Stricklin confirmed. Mullen is owed a total of $12 million, including $6 million within 60 days, on a renegotiated deal that Stricklin just awarded his coach in June.
“We want someone who has a plan to achieve at a high level for a sustained period of time,” Stricklin said in a nearly 30-minute press conference. “We talk about competing for championships here and talk about having a championship experience with integrity. Florida is a place you have the right to aspire for that.
“We have incredible resources, a great university, a passionate fan base that has invested a lot in facilities. We have incredible alignment among the university hierarchy. …
“I have a pretty good idea (of what he is seeking in the school's next head coach). I would, we want someone who has high expectations and has a plan to how they can sustain that for a long period of time. There is going to be a lot of competition in the marketplace, and I really don't want to share what our criteria or what we're going to prioritize at this moment.”