New Florida football coach Dan Mullen’s first media day featured more off the field questions — remember he was once on now suspended Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida — than football questions.
Q. I know when you were here early on with Urban, there was a pretty strict code with certain things, respecting women, et cetera, no guns, et cetera. Out of curiosity, what is the policy here in the Mullen era regarding domestic violence, respect for women, et cetera?
DAN MULLEN: Well, it’s very similar to what it was. I mean, that we believe in all that way. One of the things — I mean, domestic violence is not something — is something that is a problem, something that has to be taken very seriously. Not just in today’s world, should always be taken seriously, but I think it’s come more to the forefront in today’s world, become more of a public issue.
One of the things, anytime I deal with discipline, anytime I deal with any of those issues, and I guess it’s hard because we live in such an immediate society. We need to know everything immediately. One of the things I always try to do before I make any decision is try to gather as much information that I can before making decisions so that I think when you do make decisions, the more information you have, the better decision you can make on situations that have an effect on people’s lives.
Q. I know that you’ve obviously been involved with the wives, et cetera, all the coaching staffs, Shelley very involved with Urban, Megan in her role I’m sure is involved. How is she involved in that regard and do you consult with her about it?
DAN MULLEN: I do. Megan is very, very involved in a lot of our program, involved in the players’ lives and involved in helping the players deal with situations. I mean, there are so many different situations you deal with as a coach, and Megan is very, very involved in it. You know, whether it’s dealing with hard situations that Urban is dealing with, with people on your staff, or whether it’s dealing with having to tell a young man his mom just passed away from cancer, right, or whether it’s dealing with any number of situations. She’s very involved.
You know, our coaches’ wives are very involved. We put a lot into football. We put a lot into our players, put a lot into the development of these young men, and a lot of times they become family members, like family members to you.
And so they’re very close with the wives, with my kids, with all of those things, and so the wives are a very important part of the program and an important support system.
Q. I know you wanted to have a clean summer, and obviously there was a couple things that came out recently. How disappointing is that, and do you know of any other suspensions going forward?
DAN MULLEN: Yeah. Well, obviously one of the things we deal with as a head coach is trying to help young men make good decisions. That’s a never-ending process. You know, and that’s one — from my first team meeting through a team meeting we had last night, we continually talk about decision making in every aspect of your life and the consequences that your decisions have. You know, we have — on the football team, we’ll have 110 young men coming to training camp, I think, between the ages of 17 and 23 years old. You know, and part of our job is not just to coach football but to help educate them and teach them how to make good decisions in life. So that never ends for us.
You know, as far as the suspension and discipline, we try to look at each case individually and separately if there are going to be — there’s some discipline that honestly a lot of times law enforcement takes care of it and the legal process takes care of it. A lot of times the university takes care of it, and there’s some things that we take care of, and when we take care of it, some are public, some are private, but it’s something we take very, very seriously, the discipline within the program.
As far as suspensions or any suspensions, that’s something that I’ve done in the past. We’ll let you know if there will be suspensions. Usually we’ll do it on game day. I mean, not like two minutes before kickoff, but that morning we kind of let everybody know, hey, these are guys that are going to be suspended for any numerous number of things. But discipline is something I take very, very seriously in the program, but discipline also involved a lot of education for the players and teaching them how to make good decisions in life.
Q. On the discipline issue, the incident that happened with the fight over on campus, the confrontation, seemingly guns involved, which it turned out not to be apparently, the players, a couple, said that they feel threatened kind of when they’re out in groups. Have they talked about this to you? Are you taking precautions about stuff like this?
DAN MULLEN: Well, again, it gets to the decision making in them. They get presented — I think one thing they have to understand, being a football player here at the University of Florida, you’re a high-profile person. People know who you are as you walk around. And there’s a lot of benefits to that, and there’s — it’s kind of a neat deal when you get to walk around and everyone — you have a great game, great game, and people know who you are, a little bit of celebrity status. That’s fun for kids.
There also comes responsibility on the other side that people might be jealous or have something against you, and one of the things that we constantly tell them to do is, again, how to make good decisions, how to deal with those situations. You know, when to walk away. Just — we don’t need to engage in this, we can just walk away because it’s not something they even need to be involved in. It’s one thing we discuss as a team: Help each other out. If you see a teammate that you think is not making a good decision or possibly doing something they shouldn’t be doing, as a team we stick together and get them on the right path.
But I also think — I have a little more experience maybe in my life than some of these guys do. I think a lot of you do. And they’re still young kids that are growing and developing, so it’s a constant education process for them on how to handle all the different situations you get yourself into.
Q. Not to belabor events in Columbus, but is this in some ways a reminder, a call to action that coaches know that coaching is about more than coaching at this level? You’re caretakers of integrity, character.
DAN MULLEN: I do. I think all coaches know you’re held as a coach in the public eye to a very, very high standard. So I don’t know that it’s a wake-up call in that way. I think if you asked most coaches at top programs around America, they understand they’re there — I don’t know if you’re going to find a coach that doesn’t believe that their job as the head coach is to have a program that has and teaches young people character and integrity and how to become successful in life, not just being a processing plant for football players. I know certainly for me, that’s why I coach.
I love winning football games. I hate the other thing. But when I go to bed at night, that worries me, winning and losing, because I’m so competitive, but finally when you sit down and you think about peace in your life, are you making a positive impact on young people’s lives, which is a much, much important role as a coach. I want to win every game we play. Chances are that’s not going to happen. You look at the last several national champions, that hasn’t happened.
But as a coach, you look at the lives you can impact. That’s the most important thing.
And so I think I certainly understand that as a coach. I would think most coaches and most people I know understand that as a coach, that that’s why you do it. That’s why you coach, to help impact young people’s lives.
Q. Do you have a policy for your players owning guns?
DAN MULLEN: Yeah, you know, one of the things we talk about — like I have a no-weapons policy, but I think — it’s not like you’re not allowed to have a gun. I mean, we live in a country where that’s one of your rights. A lot of people I know have guns in their house to protect their homes and their family. What we do is spend a lot of time with the no-weapons is really to educate them on weapons, on having guns, and why would you have it, what’s the purpose of having it. To me one of the biggest concerns with a lot of young people today is if you’re going to have a gun, make sure you’re properly trained in knowing how to use it. You know, and that’s one discussion that we’ve had of potentially — I haven’t set this up, and as we’re getting things going, if you think you need to have a gun for home security, are you trained in using it. Is it a legal gun? Do you have a license? Are you qualified? And are you trained in using it so that what we’re not looking for, to me, is gun accidents or issues where a gun could maybe cause a bigger problem than if there wasn’t a weapon involved.
So it’s really to me — our no-weapons policy is about the education. It’s when and where would be the appropriate times to have it. It’s something I learned because a long time ago, hey, we have a no-weapons policy. Okay, well, I came from a place in Mississippi State for the last nine years where a lot of our kids, they have all kinds — they have bows, they spend a lot of time hunting in trees and deer hunting and different things. How you define a weapons policy, which is to make sure we’re properly educating our young men about having a gun or any sort of a weapon.
Q. So it’s not really a no-weapons policy?
DAN MULLEN: No, I mean, I’m not — you know, that would be a hard one in the world.
Q. You said you have a no-weapons policy.
DAN MULLEN: We have a no-weapons policy, and it’s a no-weapons policy in certain situations of how to be educated to not have it. If I wrote up the whole — when I like our kids thinking, I like them thinking in quick things, if that makes sense. No weapons, that’s easy to remember. If I write out all the different — no weapons in these situations or have a weapon for a hunting situation, if I’m doing this, I store it at this location, I keep it here, I have gun safety rules and knowledge, that’s not a quick catch to them to register in their mind. Does that make sense?
Q. You talk a lot about the Gator standard, living up to the Gator standard. You mentioned it in your introductory press conference; you talk about it a lot. When players don’t live up to the Gator standard, how important is it for you in your first year to set a tone that this won’t be tolerated?
DAN MULLEN: It’s huge. But it’s more important to educate not just the individual but the team on situations that occur on what happens and how to educate themselves and how to live up to that standard.
You know, I mean, when you sit with these young men, there’s a lot of things in life that I learned a long time ago that, boy, this might be really normal, common knowledge to me, and it’s not to them. Everyone learns, everyone has a different background, everybody has come from different backgrounds. A lot of guys — everyone processes things differently in how they view things. Everyone has different personality tests. We’ve done studies, and I’ve done it with the team and our coaching staff of personality tests, your personality traits. How do you plan a party? We did that test with the team. And I’m looking at some of the guys, how did that even come across your mind.
So one of the things we do is try to learn as much as we can about our players, and when they’re not living up to that standard, make sure we educate not just the individual but the entire team on this is not what’s — this does not live up to the standards and expectations of our program in representing what the University of Florida football program is going to be all about, and this is how we want to try to correct or change that behavior to help you and help the team and improve in the future.
Q. We talked a lot about discipline and guns and all this stuff, and the challenges on the field. Is there any one of those areas that’s more concerning for you right now, these days?
DAN MULLEN: You know what, every day, all of them are. Every day, a lot of the things we talk to our guys constantly is the decision making process because that can help — most discipline issues occur because someone made a poor decision, and it doesn’t matter — doesn’t matter what form it is, whether you’re talking about if someone stole something, if you’re talking about a decision with a female, if you’re talking about a decision involving drugs or alcohol, you’re talking about a decision with a weapon, someone made a poor decision along the way. It’s a constant education process on making good decisions. You know, I mean, it’s something we talk about to the guys.
It’s not something that happens overnight. Ask yourself that question. I’m 46, and I’m like, okay, did I make good decisions today. Okay, how can I find a way — if I’m faced with this situation again, how do I make a better decision. I try to reflect all the time. I’ve been a head coach now going into my 10th year, okay. If I’ve been handed a situation, how did I deal with it. Did I make a decision the right way? Did I handle it the best way? And how could I have made a better decision for what happened, and if the situation presents itself again, I’m prepared to make a better decision even the next time.
We talk to our guys about that, that I don’t expect it — it’s not something that just happens like that, that you’re a perfect decision maker. Just talk about them and educate them on how to do that.
Q. Back to Coach Meyer, just how sad are you that it’s come to this for him? I know you knew Zach Smith, you might have even coached him at some point, that this situation has — how sad is that for you knowing those two guys?
DAN MULLEN: Well, obviously as coaches, anybody that you’re close with that goes through a difficult situation, it’s always tough. I mean, people that your friends and you’re close with in friends, any time they’re dealing with a situation and the situation Urban is dealing with, it’s always hard, and you always keep them in your prayers. You hope things worked out the best for them because they’re people that have had influences on you throughout your life.