At last Thursday’s media day for the UF football team, head coach Dan Mullen had a chance to set the record straight on his team’s buffoonery and stupidity associating with a Santa Fe student named Devante Zachery over the summer.
Instead of punching it straight up the gut, Mullen fumbled on the one-yard line.
It was expected that he would receive some tough questions because of his players’ antics, and for the most part, he faced the media and didn’t run from the inquiries.
But there were a few answers that should leave Gator fans feeling uneasy.
When Alligator sports editor Mark Stine asked, “Do you have a policy on your players owning guns?” Mullen promptly responded, “I have a no-weapons policy, but I think -- it's not like you're not allowed to have a gun. I mean, we live in a country where that's one of your rights.”
So...a no-weapons policy where...you can have weapons?
Obviously this is a snippet of a larger answer, but the gist of what Mullen got into at the press conference was his players could own weapons, just make sure they know how to use them.
He talked about how his policy was more about educating the players on safety and when to possess weaponry rather than not have them at all.
He should have said something along the lines of this:
“I have a no-weapons policy and I mean no weapons. Our players should see no reason to possess a weapon. But if they do choose to have a gun because that’s their right, then they better not get caught with it or let me find it, because there WILL be consequences.”
Mullen went on to say that he had players at Mississippi State that had bows and arrows. I’d like to add that he specifically said they were used for hunting.
But when wide receiver Kadarius Toney was found with an AR-15 in his backseat, his well-known response was chilling: protection from locals.
I asked Mullen at the conference about his reaction to Toney’s response, he said, “That’s education...Any time I look at a situation, I dive deep into it, dive deep into the background, dive deep into where you're from, where you're grown up, what your neighborhood was like, what you've been exposed to in life, all those different situations.”
Let’s again review what he should have said:
“I’m worried, for this team, for my players. We need to look into why he thinks he needs a rifle for protection from locals? Are my players in danger of any true harm? Is there something so sinister that he needs a deadly weapon? This is bigger than football.”
But again, he missed, and talked more about education than the actual problem at hand.
Overall, Mullen was stoic in his answers. He faced us, the media, and didn’t shy away.
But he had a chance to escape the hurricane of confusion and criticism.
And he didn’t.