Florida coach Dan Mullen tried to downplay a heated exchange with Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason during Florida’s 37-27 victory on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.
A targeting call against Florida’s James Houston for a hit involving Dare Odeyingbo during a punt return late in the second quarter led to the verbal altercation between the SEC head coaches and Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Mason had come to the Florida sideline to check on Odeyingbo, who was injured on the play, when the coaches engaged in the verbal altercation.
After the game, Mullen told ESPN, “Derek and I are really close friends. He’s great. He knows that. He’s doing an amazing job here: You just look at what he’s been able to accomplish going to bowl games, coaching this team, how they play, how they compete. He does an amazing job. He and I are really close friends.
“We’re not gonna get into that publicly at all — Derek is a really close friend of mine — we gotta make sure our sideline is cleaner in that situation. I’m sure he probably thinks the same thing. There’s nothing carrying over from that. Nothing to get into publicly.”
After the play, both benches cleared and each team was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Houston was disqualified by the officials for targeting and Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph also was ejected. Joseph would not leave the field at first after the ejection, resisting Florida assistants who were trying to lead him to the locker room before he relented.
Mason and Mullen embraced each other after the game.
“I talked to Dan at the end of that ballgame, and that was just a matter of players down, and their player on the sideline had said something directed at me, and I said something back, and Dan gets mad — that’s how it started,” Mason said, according to ESPN.
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make sure we can play the game the right way. Keep the game safe, and make sure everybody walks out of this. It’s a referee’s job to referee. Not ours. I got a lot of respect for Dan. He respects the process. So do I.”