HOOVER, Ala. – No one gives a damn about your sneakers, Dan Mullen.
Mississippi State’s football coach delivered what might’ve been the most tone-deaf performance in the history of SEC Media Days on Tuesday afternoon at The Wynfrey Hotel, where he repeatedly told reporters about his “swagged out” Yeezy Boost kicks. He should’ve come ready to talk punches.
But when it came time to answer for his and the school’s decision to admit 5-star recruit Jeffery Simmons with a weak, one-game suspension – despite video of him standing over a woman and striking her repeatedly – Mullen delivered a pathetic performance.
What if it was your wife or your daughter in that video, being punched by a 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman? Would you still feel the same about Simmons? Still punish him as lightly?
“I’m thrilled to have him in our family, because I think he’s a young man that deserves an opportunity in life, and I have an opportunity to help mold him,” Mullen started saying.
No, Dan, answer the damn question. It’s the only thing I’ve wanted to ask Mullen since the news of Simmons’ admittance broke last month at the SEC’s spring meetings. The Bulldogs coach had already conveniently bolted town that day, leaving MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin to answer (very poorly) for the decision.
But finally, Tuesday, Mullen had to face the music. And he hit every wrong note.
So what if it was a member of your actual family on the ground?
“I don’t know,” Mullen said, “I don’t think it would be my family. I don’t deal in hypotheticals, really, so, um – but anybody, I mean, in the video, I don’t know that my family would be in that situation, to be honest with you.”
Excuse me, what? What does that nonsense even mean? And what, exactly, are you implying there, Dan? Furthermore, have you no shame?
Apologists for Simmons will tell you that he was breaking up a fight between two women, one of them a relative. Funny, I’ve broken up fights without punching any women in the face.
“Obviously,” Mullen went on to say, “I’m very strongly against any violence.”
I think you meant to say obliviously, Dan. Because no, that’s not obvious, and you seem incapable of processing the words coming out of your mouth.
Of all the jersey numbers, Simmons was listed as No. 36 on Mississippi State’s official roster released this week – a stunning decision, considering the meaning of that number to that program. It belonged to former Bulldog Nick Bell, who died of cancer in 2010.
No one has worn No. 36 at MSU since the end of that season, when players took turns donning it to honor Bell. And now it belongs to Simmons?
“That’s not finalized yet,” Mullen said.
He should’ve just stopped there. But the man apparently can’t help himself.
“With retired numbers,” Mullen said, “I learned this as a young coach at Syracuse University, where it’s a very special honor to wear the number 44, the best way you can honor numbers is by having people wear them.”
Dan, you really can’t hear yourself, can you?
So not only is Mullen “thrilled” to have Simmons, not only is he serving a paltry penalty, not only does the Bulldogs’ coach believe that the women of his family are immune to violence, but this guy thinks his freshman woman-slugger might be worthy of “a very special honor.”
Oh, and he’d also like us to believe that he “wasn’t involved as much” as other athletics and university administrators in the Simmons decision. What an utter crock.
Mullen did eventually get to his strongest point, which is not without merit. But it still reads very much like excusing violence against women because it’s good for his football team, while calling it outreach. Knowing Simmons for years, he said, the ugly video is “very uncharacteristic” of him.
“I would hate for anybody, for their life to be defined by only 10 seconds of video, and especially when you’re an 18-year-old,” Mullen said. “I would hate for that to be anybody, that that is now all you get to do in life. You don’t have an opportunity to get an education, you don’t have an opportunity to be mentored by father figures when you don’t have a father.
“I think you deserve the opportunity to be mentored by father figures. I think you deserve the opportunity to still get an education. I think you deserve an opportunity to better yourself and make something of yourself in life.”
There’s an actual conversation to be had about that, Dan. Too bad you showed up here wanting to show off your sneakers.
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.