Dan Mullen isn't the right guy for Florida, the SEC must punish Tennessee for fan behavior, and Tennessee needs to punish Dan McCullum for his actions

Dan Mullen isn't the right guy for Florida, the SEC must punish Tennessee for fan behavior, and Tenn ...

The unexpected and pathetic ending to Tennessee-Ole Miss sparked a flurry of emotions.

Anger at the needlessness of it all.

Sadness over how it overshadowed a wonderful game.

Confusion over why someone brought a golf ball to psv football game.

There were no reasons for Tennessee fans to dump the field with debris in the games final minute. No matter how upset one may be over a shaky call, throwing water bottles, golf balls, mustard, and other items onto the field is no excuse. If you cant see why that behavior is entirely unacceptable, youre incapable of analyzing the situation in a rational way. One of those items that were thrown onto the field could have seriously injured someone, and that is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of the fans in attendance cancelled what had otherwise been regarded as opulent. Tennessee gave Ole Miss a fight and provided hints on what may unfold in the future under first-year head coach Josh Heupel. After watching Saturday nights game, I should be writing about how Tennessee looks good and may even be ahead of schedule under Heupel. Instead, the childish actions of angry fans will dominate the Tennessee-Ole Miss debate. What happened inside Neyland Stadium wasnt a fair representation of the Tennessee fanbase, but it wasn t the work of merely observing the scene. There was significant debris on the sidelines, enough to put Tennessee fans in a national spotlight again, even if only 5% of the fans attending tossed items. That may not seem to be a big deal to the good, level-headed Tennessee fans who didnt participate, but it is the reality of the situation following the pathetic display that occurred at the end of that game.

It was so bad that the cheerleaders, dance team, and the band of Tennessee all left the field before the game was over. Cheerleaders ran with signs covering their heads in case a projectile came their way. Lane Kiffin, the Ole Miss head coach, instructed his team to put on their helmets after he was hit by a golf ball. It was a sad day all because fans were upset if he missed catching versus the Volunteers. The solitary actions of fans prompted strong rebukes from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Tennessee president Donde Plowman, and Tennessee AD Danny White. Plowman said she was astonished and sickened by the behavior of some Vol fans at the end of tonights game.

Sankey issued a strongly-worded statement following the pathetic display in Knoxville, declaring that the actions were inacceptable under any circumstances. Sankey hinted at whats to come, noting that the league will review policies and the commissioner s authority to impose penalties and communicate with the leadership of the University of Tennessee and all of SECS member institutions to ensure that this situation is not repeated.

Well find out how much the commissioners actions are tied to those words soon. Sankey needs to impose a far greater fine for what happened at Neyland Stadium than schools may be fined $250,000 for rushing the field. Sankey will have to work to achieve a high degree of consistency in punishment while also not overdoing it. Anyone found guilty of throwing debris should be banned from SEC events for life. The SEC should hit Tennessee with a huge fine and stern warning that could have serious consequences such as fans being banned from attending if it ever happens again. Kiffin and others may have been severely injured if hit in the wrong spot by golf balls and full water bottles, although no one was seriously injured by anything thrown onto the field.

What Tennessee fans did Saturday night was unthinkable. It is an unfortunate and troubling incident that ruins everything good that happened earlier that night. Now it is up to Sankey and the Tennessee leadership to ensure that it never happens again.

Want to know more about SEC football? Sign up for our new college football newsletter here, which will be sent to you every Thursday morning.

RELATED: Ed Orgeron is one of the top LSU coaching candidates to replace Ed orgern.

Dan Mullen is a good football coach. Bad coaches dont lead Mississippi State to a No. 1 ranking and relegation to the New Years Six bowl in 2014. After his work with Dak Prescott, Alex Smith, and Tim Tebow, he has a deserved reputation for developing quarterbacks. Mullen may be one of the best offensive play-callers around when he gets things going. He won the SEC East last season and has now taken Florida to a New Years Six bowl game three consecutive seasons in Gainesville.

However, after watching Florida lose to LSU, a game it had no business losing for several reasons, it's reasonable to question whether Mullen is the right fit for Florida long-term. Mullen was excellent at doing more with less at Mississippi State, but the expectations are different at Florida. Losing only four games a year gives you, in Starkville, - if you lose all four, your job for life; in Gainesville, it can put you in remorse. This isnt an argument for Mullen to be on the defensive right now, but rather a recognition that it will shift this way sooner rather than later at this rate.

Mullen is 4-6 in his last 10 games. The Gators are 2-6 in their last eight games against Power 5 opponents after wins over Florida Atlantic and South Florida. That is simply unacceptable at a Florida school with the resources, fansbase, and infrastructure to be an annual national championship contender. Mullen, when asked about the Gator Standard, replied, It is about excellence and being the best you can be. Unfortunately for Mullen, Florida hasnt come close to being the best it can be this season. Mullen is the sixth-highest-paid coach in America, with $7.5 million annually, more than Georgias Kirby Smart and Ohio State s Ryan Day.

Smarts affluent No. 1 Georgia program has made it harder to win the SEC East, but Florida hasnt even played the Bulldogs yet this season and has already suffered three defeats. Losing to Alabama is one thing, but losing to a short-handed LSU team led by hunky LIU player on the highest of seats could be regarded as stumbling blocks for the Mullen era. Florida lost a game last season because he or she threw sand. Its only could be because Florida was beaten by.

Mullen has two important issues when it comes to his leadership. First, he will always believe if questioned that 'hes the smartest person in any room and will be petulantly stubborn. Anthony Richardson is the quarterback who must be the starting quarterback going forward, it was apparent to anyone with working eyes Saturday. Mullen has been stubborn all season about choosing Emory Jones over Richardson, and when asked about it Saturday, he was quiet.

A lot of things are going to be evaluated, Mullen said. I thought you saw some good things from both quarterbacks today, saw a few mistakes from two quarterbackes tonight. Well see how that plays out in the future.

If Richardson isnt the starter in the game going forward, Floridas fans may revolt. Even with some poor plays against LSU, Richardson is the better quarterback and gives the Gators a better chance to win. As the season progresses, the possibility that Mullen hasnt already made the switch seems to be getting worse, despite Richardson having dealt with some injury concerns earlier in the year.

Mullens also a poor recruiter to capitalize on Florida s natural advantages. Mullen is almost always a tough competitor to Smart and Nick Saban for players they want. Alabama and Georgia have more talent on their rosters than Florida, and that will continue to be the case as long as Mullen is there. Hes never been the most dynamic recruiter, and even though heve done fairly well at Florida, itre still not good enough to meet fan expectations. The problem is, even when you sign top-15 recruiting classes in Florida in the last three years, they arent ranked among the top three in SEC. Florida signed the nations No. 9 recruiting class in 2020, according to 247Sports, yet it was only the sixth-best in the SEC. Mullen is in a competitive environment with that level of competition. Florida has lost to LSU three straight years, two of which it should have won, and it shouldnt come as a surprise given that Florida consistently ranks behind the Tigers in recruiting rankings.

Todd Grantham, Mullen's defensive coordinator, will be fired in the immediate term. Mullen has remained loyal to Grantham, who is one of the nations highest-paid coordinators at $1.8 million. That move is long overdue, but Mullened has been steadfast in his support. When you give up 321 rushing yards to a team that finished with an average of 81 yards per game in SEC play, its difficult to argue that reevaluating the defensive approach is necessary. Hiring a more competent defensive coordinator will help, but the problems that plague this Florida program under Mullen wont be resolved with one assistant hire. In Year 4 of the Mullen era, the issues are much deeper.

Florida has a bye next week before facing Georgia in Jacksonville. The Gators will lose and lose at least four games on the season, making it the 10th time Mullen has ended with at most four losses out of 13 seasons as a head coach. Mullen has shown he can be a good coach, but it just doesn't look good enough for Florida.

RELATED: Ranking of the SECs football coaching positions

1) LSU at Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m. Ole Miss and the Tigers are showing signs of recovery after a night in Tennessee when they shook off mud in Florida. Ed Orgeron must continue to win games like this to survive.

2) Tennessee vs. Alabama, 6 p.m. The Volunteers performed well against Ole Miss, though few will remember that about that game. Alabama came out looking to send a message against Mississippi State, but the question is whether the Tide can maintain that level of play.

3) South Carolina at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m. The Aggies are starting to play closer to preseason expectations, while South Carolina was as lucky as a team can be to escape with nil last week.

4) Mississippi State at Vanderbilt, 3 p.m. Vanderbilt is showing more energy, despite blowing what should have been a victory against South Carolina. The Bulldogs had no chance against Alabama, but they should look more like the Commodores than they did against the Bulls.

11 a.m., Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Arkansas. Arkansas has lost its last three games, but it should be able to get back on track with an easy victory here.

John Talty is the Alabama Media Group's sports editor and SEC Insider. You can follow him on Twitter @JTalty. Want more SEC football insight? Sign up for our new college football newsletter here, which will be sent to you every Thursday morning.

You may also like: