GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Dan Mullen did more to inflame than extinguish a tense situation against Missouri, drawing a public reprimand and a hefty fine.
The Southeastern Conference docked Mullen $25,000 on Monday for his role in a benches-clearing brawl against the Tigers on Saturday night.
The league also issued half-game suspensions for Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey, offensive lineman Dylan Spencer and defensive lineman Markell Utsey. Each of them will sit out the first half of Missouri’s next game, against No. 5 Georgia on Nov. 14.
Florida defensive lineman Zach Carter and linebacker Antwuan Powell, both ejected from the game for fighting, will be suspended for the first half against the Bulldogs next week in Jacksonville. NCAA fighting rules mandate an automatic half-game suspension for the ensuing game.
Missouri linebacker Tre Williams was ejected for a flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct foul and will not be punished further.
“There is no place in college football for the kind of incident that took place at halftime of the Missouri at Florida game Saturday night,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Everyone involved is responsible for meeting sportsmanship standards throughout each game.
“Running on the field to confront a game official, the gathering of teams in an on-field confrontation and student-athletes throwing punches are all disappointing at any time, but even more so as we work to support healthy competition during a pandemic.”
The suspensions could be significant for the eighth-ranked Gators (3-1), who were without 15 players against Mizzou. Some of the absences stemmed from injuries, others because of COVID-19 test results and contact tracing. It’s unclear how many of them will return against the Bulldogs, a game that likely will determine who wins the East Division and advances to the SEC title game.
The melee started when Missouri’s Trajan Jeffcoat delivered a high, late hit on Florida quarterback Kyle Trask on the final play of the first half. The Hail Mary pass fell incomplete, and Trask landed hard on his back. His linemen came to his defense. So did Mullen, who started screaming at officials and the opposing sideline.
Mullen charged across the field and had to be pulled away from the fracas several times. His team clearly followed his lead.
“I respect the decision from the conference office,” Mullen said in a statement. “As the head coach, it is my responsibility to defuse these types of situations, and I didn’t live up to that standard.”
Players from both teams converged near Missouri’s side of the field, and wild punches could be seen flying and connecting. Only three players were ejected.
The SEC handed down more punishments following a video review.
It was the latest black eye for Mullen, who was already under fire for saying he hoped to pack 90,000 fans inside Florida Field for a home game during a pandemic and for criticizing an NCAA rule that prevents teams having meetings and practices on Election Day.
Florida’s faithful dismissed Mullen’s strong and somewhat questionable stances as typical brashness for an outspoken coach who’s focused on winning. They found themselves defending him again Saturday night.
Mullen responded by putting on a Darth Vader costume for his postgame news conference, almost welcoming a villain role amid increased scrutiny. He broke into character at the beginning and the end of media session and held a red lightsaber the entire time.