Read through or watch the most memorable moments from the second day of SEC media-fest 2016 in Birmingham, and you'd nearly forget that Kirby Smart was formally introduced to the league as Georgia's new head coach. This oversight probably has less to do with Smart being first on the hot seat and more to do with Dan Mullen utterly failing to show backbone in the face of rapid-fire questions regarding his star signee Jeffery Simmons.
Simmons, recall, was captured on video in March violently and repeatedly punching a defenseless woman on the ground. The story soon gained national traction and brought down tremendous scrutiny on Mullen and State AD Scott Stricklin. After doling out a paltry one-game suspension for Simmons -- along with anger management education -- Stricklin in early June gave a bizarre, hunky-dory interview to the press, for which he was embarrassingly under-prepared.
So, one would've thought -- and certainly Mississippi State fans should've hoped -- that Mullen could've spoken frankly and honestly about the university's decision to admit Simmons in the first place and the football team's decision to suspend him just one game in the second. He did not.
Here's the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Kyle Tucker in the immediate aftermath of Mullen's Q&A:
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.
Mullen said that he was excited to have Simmons in the MSU family, a platitude that would scan just fine in the context of a player that hadn't beaten the hell out of a woman four months ago. But Mullen wasn't done there.
Q: So what if it was an actual member of your family on the ground?
A: I don’t know. 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.
But perhaps most strangely, "a source close to the program" told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd that Mullen had an ace up his sleeve and decided not to play it.
The story you didn't hear about Jeffery Simmons during the 2016 SEC Media Days on Tuesday: Mississippi State's embattled freshman helped change a flat tire for three women over the weekend.
"It wouldn't have played today," said a source close to the Mississippi State program.
Word? It wouldn't have played to a room full of journalists eager to ask you about the thought process that went into a one-game suspension for what is very clearly an attack on a woman? It wouldn't have played to a room full of journalists getting their first opportunity to speak to you since that punishment was announced because you high-tailed it out of Destin before they could reach you for comment? You mean to say that Mullen didn't play it for the cheap, transparent distraction that it was, and instead allowed "a source close to the program" to leak it to the media after the fact? What kind of shop are they running over there in Starkville?
Who is the idiot that keeps asking coaches about what drives Nick Saban?
When Jim McElwain took the podium on Monday, he fielded no less than three questions about his former boss Nick Saban, including some vaguery about "what drives him."
Q: I'm so sorry, I'm going to ask you another Saban question.
A: That's okay.
Q: At this point in his career, what do you think continues to drive him and how much longer do you think he can keep doing it?
Well, on Tuesday the same jamoke returned to ask Kirby Smart about his former boss.
Q: Jim McElwain said yesterday he wouldn't be surprised if Nick Saban coached forever. But at this point in his career with all of his success, what still drives him?
"Hi, yes, I asked this same question of your former colleague yesterday, and it's only tangentially related to your present situation, but can you tell me what drives a historically successful football coach to just get out there and win?"
Anyway, I think we're close to finding the culprit.
Someone here has a screensaver with a close-up photo of Nick Saban's face. I tell no lies— jason (@JasonKirkSBN) July 12, 2016
Stingray was in the house, but you knew that already.
One of these guys has a degree from Alabama. Thinking about it too much will hurt your brain. pic.twitter.com/OqtuzvwuZF— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) July 12, 2016
Media members smuggling Dr Pepper to Famous Miss State Cowbell Man in lobby, per source— jason (@JasonKirkSBN) July 12, 2016
Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight is an old man.
Knight was attending his third media days event as a student-athlete, having traveled to two previous scrums with Oklahoma. Now the presumptive starter for this year's Aggies, he let slip that his teammates think he's old.
A&M's Kevin Sumlin said when his players first saw transfer QB Trevor Knight, they asked "who's the old guy? Didn't he start for Oklahoma?"— David Caraviello (@dcaraviello) July 12, 2016
Nor could coach Kevin Sumlin get past his presser without fielding a question about Johnny Manziel, who is no longer a sports story.
Sumlin has exchanged text messages w/ Johnny Manziel. "He’s an Aggie. Always going to be an Aggie. At Texas A&M we take care of each other."— David Caraviello (@dcaraviello) July 12, 2016
Red-faced angry man Butch Jones is a treasure chest of coachspeak.
Butch Jones definitely wins the award for most coachspeak cliches during a press conference this week.— John Talty (@JTalty) July 12, 2016
Here's a word cloud of Jones' meeting with the press, courtesy of Rocky Top Talk:
Or, if you prefer, a couple of probably made-up quotes from Jones himself:
"Leaders eat last"- Butch Jones. Leaders point the finger at themselves first for failure and give praise to others with success.#BeALeader— kevin wallace (@KRWallaceFB) July 12, 2016
"The road to success is always under construction," Butch Jones, cliche/slogan-machine.— Chadd Scott (@ChaddScott) July 12, 2016
It was surprising, though, that just one question came up regarding campus sexual assault, violent crime, and Tennessee's own sexual misconduct investigation.
Q: We know Tennessee just recently reached a settlement and we touched on social issues. I'm curious as to your stance on sexual assault and how you'll handle it going forward with your team?
A: Well, we don't look at it as something of the past or something that's been settled. Everything is a teaching unit. These are very, very serious issues that surround every college campus, they surround society today, and we'll continue to educate our players on the importance of it. We've brought in 70-plus speakers. We've been very proactive with that.
With Dan Mullen's bonkers interview occurring just before Jones took the podium, one would have assumed that reporters were primed to go after answers on potentially illegal activities by the coach himself.
Tomorrow's media scrum continues with representatives from Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri. ROLL DAMN MEDIA DAYS.