Florida lures Mullen away from Miss. State

The Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dan Mullen spent the last 13 years in the Southeastern Conference. He cultivated offenses. He developed quarterbacks. He celebrated two national championships. He turned former league laughing stock Mississippi State into a title contender.

He probably should have been Florida’s top target from the start.

Instead, it took Chip Kelly spurning the Gators for athletic director Scott Stricklin to turn to his close friend and former Starkville, Mississippi, neighbor.

Stricklin hired Mullen as Florida’s next head coach Sunday, bringing back the guy who helped make Tim Tebow a star. The Gators announced the deal after Mullen told the Bulldogs he was returning to Gainesville.

The move reunites Stricklin and Mullen, who worked together in Starkville from 2009 to 2016. Stricklin was Mullen’s AD for seven of those years.

Mullen previously spent four years (2005-08) as Florida’s offensive coordinator and won two national titles while guiding Tebow to the top of the school record books. The Gators averaged 36.3 points a game and 7.1 yards a play during Mullen’s tenure.

Ex-Pitt coach gone

TEMPE, Ariz. — Todd Graham changed the culture at Arizona State, adding a dose of discipline to a program that had been missing it. He helped the Sun Devils become better in the classroom, and upgrade their facilities with his penchant for connecting with donors.

The one thing Graham did not do, at least consistently enough: Win games.

Arizona State fired Graham after six seasons Sunday, a day after an emotional comeback victory over rival Arizona.

“I don’t judge by emotion, I judge by body of work,” Arizona athletic director Ray Anderson said. “At the end of the day we’re still average, middle of the pack and going to a low bowl game. Frankly, that’s not what we aspire to be. I don’t think anyone on staff was satisfied with that.”

Graham energized Arizona State’s program when he left after one season at Pittsburgh season in 2012. The fast-talking Texan cracked down on the free-and-loose Sun Devils, turning them into a yes-sir, no-sir program with rules on everything from profanity to hair length.

The players responded to Graham’s old-school approach, playing and practicing with more discipline, getting better grades — 2.2 collective GPA to 3.0 — and winning games.

Only the winning tailed off.

Arizona State went 17-19 the past three seasons, missing the postseason in 2016. This season, the Sun Devils (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) finished second in the Pac-12 South to Southern California and will be headed to a lower-tier bowl.

Even after rallying for a 42-30 victory over Arizona in the Territorial Cup, Graham had not done enough to keep his job.

Sumlin let go

Texas A&M fired coach Kevin Sumlin after six winning seasons Sunday.

The first black head coach in program history was 51-26 and 25-23 in the Southeastern Conference and never had a losing season. But his first year at A&M was his best, and he never could come close to matching it.

In 2012, Sumlin had a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Johnny Manziel and ushered in the program’s move from the Big 12 to the SEC by going 11-2. That earned him a new contract and $5 million annual salary, but the Aggies have not won more than nine games since.

The Aggies ended their regular season on Saturday by losing to LSU . They dropped to 7-5 and finished 4-4 in the SEC for the fourth time under Sumlin.

Athletic director Scott Woodward, who was hired by the school in the summer of 2016, said in a statement that Sumlin made Texas A&M “a better all-around football program and led our program with dignity and character.”

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