Ole Miss, Mississippi State Football Coaches Address Confederate Flag

AP Photo/Dave Martin
AP Photo/Dave Martin

Now that the Confederate battle flag has been removed from the South Carolina capitol, football coaches at Mississippi’s major universities are being asked to weigh in on removing the state flag, the only flag in the union that contains the Confederate battle flag.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen skirted the issue when queried by a reporter on Tuesday, preferring to answer with platitudes about the diversity of the university. Mullen said he didn’t see the Confederate flag very often, adding, “We don’t have it on our campus.”

Mullen then segued into current PC, asserting:

We’re the most diverse campus in the Southeastern Conference. I know the university embraces that diversity as a whole. I certainly embrace that diversity. We’re so diverse they have a Yankee as a head football coach in the Southeastern Conference. It’s something that, on a national level, is getting an awful lot of attention right now. People are really looking into how we can make things better in the state of Mississippi. I hope, as a university, we’re out on the forefront trying to make things better with the type of school we have and the diversity we have in our school.

On Thursday, University of Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze bowed to the political winds, intoning that the flag of the state must be changed. He lectured, “In the late ’90s our university made a move to go away from the Confederate flag and being a Mississippian I have a great appreciation for the Mississippi people and the pride we have in the heritage and all those things. Unfortunately that symbol has been hijacked by some groups that mean ill-will towards some people. While I’m not a political figure, I strongly believe it is time we move in a different direction and change the flag. Hopefully, that’ll happen.”

Confronted by a reporter about his statement that the state flag had been “hijacked,” and queried further if he thought the flag was connected to hate groups, Freeze responded, “I’m going to have to go study some and make sure I’m speaking about knowledge… But I know the people that I grew up around… did not (use) it in ill will toward anyone.”

Asked if the Ole Miss’ “Rebels” nickname was appropriate, Mullen answered, “We could get into the name of the Rebels and everything, and if that’s something that is troublesome to others, I’m sure that we would address that. But I haven’t heard that.”

Mississippi has been barred from holding any NCAA championships, as the NCAA refuses to schedule any championship games in states whose flag contains the Confederate battle flag. The SEC has not echoed that position, but on Monday, commissioner Greg Sankey hinted that the SEC may follow suit, pontificating that the SEC must take all factors into consideration.

Earlier this week, South Carolina coach Steve Spurier lauded the decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds in Columbia, stating, ““I applaud our governor for setting the initiative to remove the flag and obviously it was received very well by just about everyone in our state and around the country. Obviously all of us in college sports, we know the importance of equality, race relations, everyone getting along.” Alabama coach Lou Saban voiced the PC line, saying, “My opinion is that any time we have a symbol that represents something that is mean-spirited or doesn’t represent equal rights for all people, I’m not for having that symbol represent anything we’re involved in.”