Mississippi State's Dan Mullen took the podium at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. He was sure to face questions over the school's paltry one-game suspension for incoming five-star freshman Jeffery Simmons, who was charged with two misdemeanors after repeatedly punching a woman. Mullen's answers were not good.
Here was one example, from the main room (the full transcript of that portion is here):
Q. Coach, when the program handed out its discipline for Jeffery Simmons, did you leave that meeting assuming this was going to be satisfactory for everybody outside of the program, or did you anticipate some of the public backlash that you did get?
COACH MULLEN: I wasn't involved as much. It was a university decision, but I was just thrilled that we're having Jeffery as part of our family coming in. As I said, I take a lot of pride as a coach on developing young men to be champions, not just on the field, off the field, and every part of their life to be successful in whatever it is they do, and that's not an easy process.
The football coach "wasn't involved as much" in a five-star's one-game suspension. If you believe that, please climb the nearest staircase to the moon.
Plenty of people were unimpressed with his answers to the four questions on the subject in the main room, where he seemed to believe people would be as interested in his Adidas Yeezy shoes as they were the year prior, back when the issue of violence against women wasn't hanging over his program like it is now. But it was in a smaller room that things took a turn.
After SEC Country's Kyle Tucker asked Mullen how he would've reacted if it had been a relative of Mullen's on the receiving end of those punches, the coach started in on the "family" answer again.
Tucker pressed, sounding clearly frustrated. Mullen said, "I don't know. I don't think it would be my family. I don't deal in hypotheticals, really. But I mean, in the video, I don't know that my family would be in that situation, to be honest with you."
"Anybody can be on the ground, being assaulted," Tucker said. Heated, back-and-forth discussions with media are extremely rare in this group setting, but Mullen had talked his way into one.
Mullen said MSU's "investigation" revealed more about the video's surrounding context. Simmons initially claimed his burst of violence came after agitation against his family and in defense of his sister. MSU hasn't presented its reasons for following that line of thinking, if indeed it is, preferring to repeat things like "our family" and "a life shouldn't be defined by 10 seconds of video."
But "I don't know that my family would be in that situation" does not at all sound like an empathetic thing to say about a woman on the ground being punched by a large athlete, no matter how she wound up there. I heard some scoffs and light gasps from reporters as Mullen said that.
(I'd meant to ask Mullen why the program couldn't have suspended Simmons for a full year, as Oklahoma did with fellow five-star Joe Mixon for punching a woman, but made it into the room a minute late and wasn't sure what had already been asked.)
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