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Coaches, athletic directors from Mississippi’s public universities join forces to change state flag

Mississippi basketball coach, Kermit Davis, center, joins other athletic staff from the state's public universities calling for a change in the Mississippi state flag, during a joint news conference at the Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, on Thursday. Several head coaches met with both Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn in addition to their lawmakers, to lobby for the change by their respective bodies.
Mississippi basketball coach, Kermit Davis, center, joins other athletic staff from the state's public universities calling for a change in the Mississippi state flag, during a joint news conference at the Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, on Thursday. Several head coaches met with both Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn in addition to their lawmakers, to lobby for the change by their respective bodies.(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 10:22 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - If asked where you might find some of the most prominent figures in Mississippi college athletics on a normal day, your answer likely wouldn’t be the state capitol.

Today was not a normal day.

Coaches, athletic directors and others representing Delta State, Jackson State, Mississippi State, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, Ole Miss and Southern Miss met in Jackson to lobby for the changing of the state flag.

Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis, Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn all took the podium to address those in attendance. Lined up behind them on the steps of the capitol were representatives from each university.

“This entire state is screaming for a change,” Gunn said. “The nation is watching. They want to know what we, as a state, stand for.”

While at the podium, Coach Davis shared how feelings surrounding Mississippi’s flag have affected his players.

“I had a meeting with our team the other day. I can tell there is hurtfulness in our locker room, confusion in our locker room because they want change,” Davis said. “Mississippi needs to have a flag that is great for all the citizens in our state. Mississippi needs to have a flag that is right for all of our students in-state, all of our out-of-state students and student-athletes that come on our campus.”

Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Nikki McCray, who had previous coaching stints at Old Dominion University in Virginia and South Carolina, shared her experience of having to ignore confederate flags around her.

“I know firsthand what it feels like to see a confederate flag and pretend it doesn’t have a racist, violent or oppressive overtone,” McCray said. “The ruling by the SEC and NCAA affects us greatly and we (MSU) can’t be an elite program without hosting postseason events...It’s time to see change and have that symbol of hatred removed.”

Southern Miss men’s basketball coach Jay Ladner cited inclusivity as the reason why the flag must be changed.

“It’s time for our flag to be inclusive and represent all Mississippians,” Ladner said. “I’m a born and bred Mississippi boy myself and it’s time for our flag to cover all of our state.”

Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin shared how keeping the flag as it is could cause students and student-athletes to reject attending Mississippi schools

“I think you’re going to deal with kids leaving the state or not wanting to come because of this,” Kiffin said. “I think it’s great to see everyone come together for one, united cause. It’s very important.”

List of attendees at the state capitol from each Mississippi public university:

Alcorn State University

  • Landon Bussie, Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Jimmy Joseph, Track and Cross Country Coach
  • Nathaniel Kilbert, Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Kevin Larry, Soccer Coach
  • Fred McNair, Football Coach
  • Darnesha Moore, Tennis Coach
  • Josef Rankin, Softball Coach
  • Bretton Richardson, Baseball Coach
  • Melissa Robinson, Volleyball Coach

Delta State University

  • Todd Cooley, Head Football Coach
  • Mike Kinnison, Director of Athletics
  • Mike Neinaber, Head Men’s Basketball Coach

Jackson State University

  • Wayne Brent, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Dr. Ted Flogaites, Head Soccer Coach
  • John Hendrick, Head Football Coach
  • Gabrielle Moore, Head Tennis Coach
  • Kevin Montgomery, Head Softball Coach
  • Tomekia Reed, Head Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Ashley Robinson, Vice President & Director of Athletics
  • Mark Thorne, Head Cross Country/Track & Field Coach
  • Rose Washington, Head Volleyball Coach

Mississippi State University

  • John Cohen, Director of Athletics
  • Ben Howland, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Mike Leach, Head Football Coach
  • Chris Lemonis, Head Baseball Coach
  • Nikki McCray-Penson, Head Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Samantha Ricketts, Head Softball Coach
  • Chris Woods, Head Track & Field Coach

Mississippi University for Women

  • Dedrick Burnett, Track and Field Coach
  • Brian Merkel, Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Daniel Talley, Tennis Coach
  • Morgan Turnipseed, Cross Country Coach

Mississippi Valley State University

  • Alonzo Banks, Head Track & Field/Cross Country Coach
  • Vincent Dancy, Head Football Coach
  • Franklyn Davies, Head Soccer Coach
  • Dianthia Ford-Kee, Director of Athletics
  • Lindsey Hunter, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Riley Murry, Head Tennis Coach
  • Lee Smith, Associate Athletic Director/Head Softball Coach
  • Aaron Stevens, Head Baseball Coach
  • Ashley Walker-Johnson, Head Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Janay Yancey, Head Volleyball Coach

University of Mississippi

  • Mike Bianco, Head Baseball Coach
  • Keith Carter, Athletics Director
  • Kermit Davis, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Lane Kiffin, Head Football Coach
  • Yolette McPhee-McCuin, Head Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Connie Price-Smith, Head Track & Field/Cross Country Coach

University of Southern Mississippi

  • Scott Berry, Head Baseball Coach
  • Jay Ladner, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Joye Lee-McNellis, Head Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Jeff Mitchell, Deputy Director of Athletics

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