Florida Gators head Coach Dan Mullen has it backward.
He says Florida fans need to start selling out the Swamp and providing an invigorating, exhilarating home-field advantage if they expect a winning program. I say -- and have been saying about every Gators coach for the better part of a decade -- that Mullen needs to put an invigorating, exhilarating offense on the field before he expects a winning crowd.
In a not-so-veiled knock on Florida's season-low homecoming crowd of 80,017 during Saturday's abysmal 38-17 loss to a Missouri team that was previously winless in the SEC, an obviously frustrated Mullen said: "We want the program back; we need a sold-out stadium next week and unbelievable home-field advantage. That's how it works. I'm gonna be honest with you, this is how it works: When we sell out the stadium, we win a championship. It doesn't go the other way. It's not we win, you sell out. You sell out, you win. Go watch teams that have built programs. That's how it works."
Well, not exactly.
Nebraska has sold out 366 consecutive games dating to before JFK was assassinated more than a half-century ago. The 'Huskers are 2-7 and haven't won a conference championship in 20 years.
Then, of course, there are the dynastic Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s and 1990s who won five national championships playing in front of mostly half-full stadiums at the Orange Bowl.
But I digress. The point is the same point I've been making for years as Florida crowds have continued to dwindle. Until the Gators put an entertaining star-studded brand of offense on the field, then they can forget about consistently selling out the Swamp.
Not in today's sports landscape where more and more fans are staying home and watching games on their 90-inch high-def TVs rather than fighting the crowd, paying $6 for a cup of Coke and doling out $250 for a Saturday-night stay at a flea-bag motel that normally charges $75.
Mullen, like most other coaches, insists that he doesn't care how his team wins just as long as the Gators win. That's fine -- as long as he realizes that his fans DO care how they win. They don't want slobber-knocking 10-6 victories; they would much rather have edge-of-your-seat 48-44 victories.
Exhibit A: Will Muschamp, the former Gators coach who will bring his South Carolina Gamecocks to Gainesville Saturday for a noon kickoff that -- contrary to Mullen's wishes -- will not even be close to a packed house.
It's no coincidence that Muschamp's first game as Florida's head coach back in 2011 ended a 22-year streak of 137 straight Swamp sellouts. It wasn't because fans disliked Muschamp at the time; it was because Florida's offense the previous year (Urban Meyer's final season) was stale, starless and painful to watch.
Florida's offense has been that way ever since. Even when Muschamp won 11 games in his second year and took the Gators into the final week of the regular season with a chance to play for the national championship, fans grumbled and the non-sellouts continued because the offense was tediously boring.
Steve Spurrier spoiled Gators fans in the 1990s when his Fun 'N' Gun revolutionized passing offenses in the SEC. In the mid-2000s, Meyer (with Mullen as his offensive coordinator) came in and recruited Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and loads of other playmakers as Florida's spread attack again revolutionized the SEC.
In the last decade, Florida's offense has gone from revolutionary to just plain revolting. Mullen is obviously a good enough coach to make Florida's offense fun and exciting again, but it's going to take a couple of recruiting classes. This year's offense, although significantly better than former coach Jim McElwain's inept attack, is still is ranked only 81st in the country.
If Mullen wants to lure Gators fans back into the Swamp, he must first give them a reason to get off their couches and leave their houses.Instead of taking the stance that fans must sell out the Swamp before the Gators win, Florida's coach needs to channel his inner Field of Dreams.
A word of advice for Dan Mullen:
If you build it -- an exciting scoreboard-lighting offense -- they will come.
Sports on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: If Mullen will build it, they will come