Gainesville, Florida. — Florida coach Dan Mullen finally admitted he had made some unfortunate comments last year when he said he could only scratch his head, and redoubled his efforts to fill the team’s stadium during the pandemic.

But Mullen did not apologize for his silence after Mullen’s family members told ESPN that they believed he would eventually go to the NFL.

There are a lot of rumors, but I haven’t talked to anyone, Mullen said in an interview with Zoom on Tuesday, two days before spring training begins.

Mullen, 48, was specifically asked about the possibility of turning pro, perhaps after next season or later.

I’m gonna talk about it: I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what the future of college football will be, he said. I love it here at the University of Florida. I think we have an excellent program. We have a great fan base, a great history and the ability to win a championship program every year.

I think the coaches are worried about the future of college football. … I think there’s a lot of uncertainty that we’re trying to understand right now, what our future holds.

Between a burgeoning transfer portal that forces coaches to constantly rip off their players and the vague questions about the possibilities of building a name, image and reputation, it’s not hard to see why coaches might want to get out of the game. The coronavirus pandemic also demonstrated that university athletics has a financial model that can collapse in a short period of time.

Urban Meyer, former Florida and Ohio state coach, has left the broadcast booth to join the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. He becomes the third college coach in as many years to make the switch. Kliff Kingsbury transferred from Texas Tech to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 and Matt Rhule transferred from Baylor to the Carolina Panthers in 2020.

Mullen certainly has what it takes, whether it’s making Mississippi State a regular threat in the Southeast Conference or helping the Gators return to the championship game. His resume also includes several jobs with NFL quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott. Former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will be Mullen’s next player as QB. Arkansas Felipe Franks could also be a late pick.

Mullen has spent nearly three decades in college, the last 16 of which have been with an SEC energy firm.

The last one is probably the busiest. He was asked to comment on his desire to repopulate the swamp after losing Texas A&M and cramming 90,000 fans at Florida Field during a public health crisis.

He also hesitated after the loss against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, insisting that Team Florida’s final 2020 game was actually the SEC title game. The Gators were without their top four receivers and top three defenders against the Sooners, and Mullen praised the efforts of his scout players, whose comments were seen as a distraction from the Oklahoma victory.

I think sometimes I’ve said things that were, you know, maybe unfortunate, maybe misinterpreted, maybe interpreted differently, Mullen said. You are always trying to improve, perfect yourself and look better. I think one of the things you need to do is look back, think and say: Is that the right approach at this time?

Mullen has had other great moments in 2020.

The SEC gave him a warning and a $25,000 fine after league officials ruled that he had fueled rather than resolved a tense situation with Missouri that led to a half-time fight on Halloween night. Mullen wore a Darth Vader costume during his post-game press conference, essentially embracing the role of villain.

He found himself in warmer waters just before Christmas, when the NCAA said Mullen failed to create an atmosphere of compliance because he had inappropriate contact with a rookie in Seattle and allowed inappropriate contact with seven teams that stayed in Gainesville en route to competition in Tampa.

These violations put Florida on probation with the NCAA for the first time in 30 years.

Shaw’s announcement of the penalty also likely means there will be no promotion or overtime for Mullen, who is 29-9 since replacing Jim McElwain following the 2017 season. He has three years left on his six-year, $36.6 million contract, making him the 10th highest paid college football coach.

Yes, I don’t control that part, so I have to take care of what I do control, he said. It could be at someone’s press conference. That would be a good question for her.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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