Ailing friend weighs on UF assistant

A close friend of Dan Mullen is battling brain cancer.

Published December 20, 2006

GAINESVILLE - In a span of just about two weeks, Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen has had a painful reminder of the complexities of life.

While Mullen is preparing for the biggest game of his career, one of his best friends and a former Navy SEAL, Kirk McConni-ville, is in a fight for his life.

Two hours before the announcement came that the Gators would play Ohio State in the BCS national championship game, Mullen learned McConniville, his former teammate at Trinity High in Manchester, N.H., had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Mullen, who was on a recruiting trip, said he heard the good news about the Gators when he called his wife after his plane landed in Houston.

"I went back to the hotel and put it in perspective," he said. "It was kind of like the highest of highs and lowest of lows. I was hoping to get the call saying we were going to the national championship. And instead, I got that call from one of my other friends.

"It was a pretty extreme day."

At Mullen's expense, McConniville will travel to Glendale, Ariz., for the game and spend time with Mullen and his wife, Megan.

"He said they made him pretty tough in the Navy," Mullen said. "So he's ready to fight."

Tampa props

Basketball coach Billy Donovan and FAMU coach Mike Gillespie said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout for Sunday's game at the St. Pete Times Forum, more than 15,000. Gillespie said with the large Florida and FAMU fan base in the Tampa Bay area, he might ask Donovan about playing the game again at the Times Forum next season.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.