The state of Mississippi has burned like a red-hot fire this week with the news of the updated list of allegations levied at Ole Miss football. That discussion has spun off conversation into root causes of this investigation. The national media’s discussion has ranged from NCAA investigation practices, Hugh Freeze’s infamous tweet daring the country, and if everyone breaks NCAA rules at a similar level among other topics. If we look at what is coming from the most staunch Ole Miss supporters, guys like the Ole Miss Spirit’s Yancy Porter, there is only one cause: Dan Mullen. Sure there were many student athletes who were given immunity, none more infamous to Rebel faithful than “Student Athlete B”, but according to hardcore Rebel supporters parroting their messengers, Dan Mullen put him up to it.
I’ve been saying for months now that Dan Mullen and Leo Lewis will go down as the two most despised figures in Ole Miss history.
Personally, I think that is speaking with incredible levels of hyperbole. If I take the word of Chancellor Vitter, the investigation was closed until draft night. Unless Dan Mullen is a jedi and was able to take over Laremy Tunsil’s mind during that abbreviated press conference, I don’t see how this could all be Dan’s fault. That said, I want to go down that road for the sake of discussion. I want to view this from a staunch Rebel point of view that Dan Mullen is the sole reason for the predicament Ole Miss now finds itself in. Is there something to this?
Before we go in to the genesis of how Dan got the ball rolling on this elaborate scheme, we have to examine the potential intelligence of Dan Mullen. Let’s face it, if this is all his fault, he’s a mastermind. Mississippi State fans would characterize it as a heel, mad genius while Ole Miss fans would view him with the same vile that Luthansa and the FBI had for Jimmy “The Gent” Burke after pulling of the biggest cash heist in American history. After years of conversation with many members of the Mississippi media, I can say without doubt that Mullen is an incredibly bright guy. Not only is he smart, he knows he’s smart. We’ve seen that manifest itself in what some would call arrogance, turning people off like the Miami representatives after the 2010 Gator Bowl. I had one member of the media tell me that Mullen isn’t your typical SEC coach. He’s not southern and folksy. Not only is he analytically smart but socially intuitive as well. You could drop Dan and his wife Megan Mullen off at an ultra-elite cocktail mixer in Los Angeles or New York and they would fit right in like a chameleon. I don’t think we could say the same about the Ed Orgeron’s, Les Miles’, Butch Jones’, Gus Malzahn’s, or Hugh Freeze’s of the world.
Now we have to think where the beginning of this plan started. Typically, devious plans begin at some point and are fueled by a few factors like greed or revenge. For the sake of this trip down speculation lane, I’m going to go with revenge. Mullen took over a program that was in the dumps while Ole Miss was coming off the 2-straight Cotton Bowls. The Rebs had not reached heights so high in 50 years. Fifty. Fifty. Fifty years, as Hooten Dale reminded us. Fast forward to the 2009 Egg Bowl as a 4-win MSU team came in the Battle for the Golden Egg as a huge underdog against top-25 ranked Ole Miss. What resulted was a shocking 41-27 win where Mullen proclaimed MSU was the program in the state on the rise. 2010 the Bulldogs climbed to new heights as the Rebs dropped to 4-8. In a moment where Mullen thought he had Ole Miss right where he wanted them, the Rebs pulled off the “Mississippi Grand Slam” where they flipped many recruits from MSU and absolutely dominated the in-state recruiting. I’m sure that blind-sided Mullen but at that moment, he was exposed to the true power that is Ole Miss recruiting. He had to feel hopeless and at that point of despair is when he devised a plan that would take years to come to fruition.
2011 was more of the same where the wheels came totally off for Houston Nutt as the Rebs finished 2-10 and lost a 3rd-straight Egg Bowl. Mullen, already putting his plan in to motion, declared that MSU would never lose to Ole Miss again. That win also fueled the ramped up “This Is Our State” campaign that culminated in a billboard being placed in Oxford in the middle of a bitter recruiting battle for Oxford native Jeremy Liggins. The Bulldogs ultimately lost that recruiting battle but the shots had been fired and the reverberations were being felt throughout Rebel nation.
What happened next is why Dan Mullen will be the most hated man in Ole Miss history. He knew that the 3-straight Egg Bowl wins and the sign in Oxford would push a prideful group in to the proverbial back of the cage. That cornered animal had only one choice. Fight back at a level never seen to show that Ole Miss is the boss of this state and to teach a lesson to this arrogant Yankee. Mullen had already felt the power once before, in the 2010 recruiting cycle. He was smart enough to know that wasn’t even a strong effort. That was the half-hearted effort of a group that wasn’t excited about the upcoming season or their head coach. Mullen, doing his best Bobby Fisher impression, thought 3 moves ahead. He knew that if you get that machine running at 110%, it would implode like Chernobyl.
When Hugh Freeze was hired, it wasn’t just Mississippi that saw the renewed recruiting effort. It was the entire nation. Everyone was put on notice in 2013 where the Rebels put together a top-5 class and had the biggest sports star in the world, Lebron James, singing the praises of what was brewing in Oxford. While MSU fans were squirming, Mullen knew his plan was being carried out. He had passed his problem on to Georgia, FSU, Auburn, and Alabama. The timing here is crucial because all this occurred as Mike Slive leaves office for a less respected commissioner (Sankey) and the NCAA retooled its enforcement arm.
That leads us to where we are now. Mullen recruited support among his contemporaries, albeit in a secondary fashion, gaining support. He played to the ego and pride of the caged animal and now it is fighting with reckless abandon, getting sloppy, and making critical mistakes. Mike Slive is gone and cannot offer any protection or buffer from an organization who has revamped its rules and penalty structure coming off the Miami case embarrassment. Shakespeare could not have written a more diabolical, more intricate plot of revenge.
You have to wonder, is the guy who flippantly exclaimed “UT Chattanooga” with a victory cigar hanging out of his mouth in the visitor locker room at Vaught Hemingway doing the same thing today? Is the quick-witted Yankee basking in the glory of his plot coming to fruition? If you believe the Yancy Porter’s of the world, he is. This was a premeditated act that was carefully crafted. Meet the new villain of Rebel Nation, Dan Mullen, the biggest troll the Southeastern Conference has ever seen.