Freeze, Mullen dancing and defiant at SEC Media Days
Dan Mullen and Hugh Freeze knew exactly what was coming their way at SEC Media Days.
Mullen was going to be blasted with questions about Jeffery Simmons’ violent altercation with a woman in March. Freeze was going to continue to catch heat for the investigation into his program.
MULLEN HIT AND MISS
Mullen was first up, and he swung pretty lightly in the group media session. Asked about a “respect women” sign in the locker room and how that correlated with Simmons’ one-game suspension, Mullen danced around Simmons specifically with, “Everything we do in our program and all of the players on our team are part of a family …,” Mullen said. “All of these young guys that come in and come through our program, we constantly want to help them learn to make good decisions in their life …”
The dancing continued when asked if he thought the punishment was satisfactory.
“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 …” he said.
Part of the punishment or not, that was Mullen’s chance to give his honest take.
To his credit, Mullen ended the session with his strongest stance on Simmons. Whether anyone likes it or not, Simmons is getting one game. That’s that. The risk the school has taken is on Mullen, and he is publicly shouldering the burden.
He handled the light public grilling with caution, perhaps too much caution and not enough condemning.
If Simmons does something like that again – and in fairness that is the only public blemish on his otherwise clean and well-respected prep resume – it will be on Mullen and the university. Not because they can necessarily control it, but because the light punishment would be seen as more toleration than preventative.
That goes for Simmons and anyone else.
FREEZE DEFIANT AND DEFINITIVE
Hugh Freeze has plenty of opposition these days, and he’s right, a lot of it has to do with the success Ole Miss is having – and appears to be pretty set on having — in the near future.
There are clearly things the Rebels are going to have to answer for with the NCAA. Asked about that, Freeze owned it.
“… There will come a day where we get to stand before the committee on infractions, which are the ones that matter, and we will be held accountable for any wrongdoing that is found, and that’s the way it should be …,” he said.
That said, Freeze has continued to stand behind his name, and while taking responsibility as head coach, is also showing determination to not allow infractions to occur on his watch.
Freeze and Paul Finebaum had an on-air back-and-forth, then another behind the scenes. Freeze wasn’t as “testy” as the ESPN notification alerted on your iPhone. He is caught between owning infractions without throwing staff under the bus and protecting his name by stressing that whether anyone believes him or not, he is sincere about saying he wasn’t involved.
“I have zero interest, zero interest, in cutting corners to be successful, and our staff knows that very well. I have a lot of things that I’m not very good at, but that is not a temptation …” Freeze said. “We continue to recruit at a high level because people know us for who we are.”