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As Vandy’s Franklin Works Out The Details With Penn State, National Coverage Is Going Right Where We Said It Would Go

shocked20audienceFor the past month we’ve had to write about James Franklin the job candidate on numerous occasions.  And in each of those posts we’ve said that the recent rape scandal at Vanderbilt could become a drawback for him on this year’s job carousel.  Southern Cal was supposed to be interested.  Then we in the media said Washington would come calling.  Then it was going to be Texas.  But no, no and no.  There were no stories of back-alley meetings or planes flying to and from Nashville.

The Houston Texans did reportedly meet with Franklin, but an NFL team has less to fear when it comes to reputation than universities.

So when Franklin’s name popped up in connection with Penn State, we at MrSEC.com scoffed.  If there was one school that simply couldn’t hire a guy who might have to take the witness stand in a rape trial it was Penn State.

Only Penn State has apparently offered Franklin their job anyway.  Currently, the coach is expected to accept the invitation, though Vanderbilt is working behind the scenes to give the coach everything he wants (likely even more cash for his assistants and a guaranteed start date on stadium renovations).  This delay has given national writers a chance to go exactly where we expected them to go.  Before Franklin has even signed his name to a contract, PSU is being questioned for the hire it’s apparently in the process of making.

The latest column from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com is titled: “Penn State, of all teams, should have avoided James Franklin.”  Some samples:

 

“Penn State cannot hire James Franklin.  Can’t even begin to think about it, actually.  

The fact there is ‘baggage’ in the background of Vanderbilt’s talented, affable, accomplished coach is enough.  All you need to know is that Franklin was Vanderbilt’s coach last June 23 when police say four of his players raped an unconscious 21-year-old student in a dorm room…

Franklin has not been tied to the case, at all.  But he was the coach when it happened and that should be enough — especially at Penn State.  

Do you know why?

Penn State doesn’t need a winning football coach that bad to risk its moral comeback from NCAA hell…

Penn State has to have a higher standard than any school at this point.  The institution is still digging its moral reputation out of the mud.”

 

Christine Brennan of USA Today posted a similar take this morning titled: “For Penn State right now, James Franklin is wrong choice.”  A few snippets:

 

“What Jerry Sandusky did under the auspices of Penn State football was so horrible that one would think the mere thought of his despicable acts would guide every move by every person in a position of leadership at Penn State from now until, well, forever.  For instance, because Sandusky raped young boys, you would think Penn State definitely would steer clear of anyone involved with that awful, terrible word: rape.  That would seem to be a wise guiding principle for the search committee.

So, Penn State, who are you thinking about hiring?

A man whose tenure at Vanderbilt was marked by a rape scandal…

James Franklin is a coveted 41-years-old head coach who probably would make a fine hire for any of his other suitors.  Just not Penn State.  Not at this time…

Whatever happens in that (Vanderbilt rape) case, by hiring Franklin, Penn State will have attached itself to it.  If there’s a trial and Franklin’s a part of it, Penn State would be a part of it, too.”

 

Bingo.  That’s the problem with Penn State hiring Franklin.  If/when he’s forced to testify in the trials of his four ex-players, it will be Penn State’s coach testifying in a rape case.  If something ugly and unexpected comes out during that trial, it will be Penn State’s coach dealing with the fallout.

Franklin is a tremendous coach and he should not be punished for a case in which the Nashville DA’s office has cleared him of any wrongdoing in any kind of coverup.  But Penn State is not the right school to make this run at this moment due to the PR ramifications that we saw coming a month ago.  And if we saw this coming a month ago, how the heck could Penn State not have seen it coming this week — or not cared that it would come?

Any school hiring Franklin would be importing the VU sexual assault case to its campus.  One school’s recent history makes that importation almost impossible.  But that very school — Penn State — is trying to do just that, right now.

PSU officials who wanted to bury the Sandusky story and move forward from it are bringing the story back into the headlines.  And if/when Franklin testifies, the words “rape,” “Sandusky,” and “Penn State” will once again be kicked around from local media outlets to national ones.  It’s truly hard to believe that the administration at any major college or university could be so utterly and fantastically tone deaf.

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Vandy’s Franklin A Wanted Man, Even In Some Places We Wouldn’t Have Expected

James-Franklin-contemplativeWhen it comes to interviewees for head coaching jobs, no one in the country is more sought after at this moment than Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.  We’re talking about a Stage 5, Gruden-level feeding frenzy.  And why not?  The Commodores’ coach just wrapped up back-to-back 9-4 seasons, he’s won 16 of his last 20 games, and he’s taken to Vandy to three bowl games, winning two of them.  Short of walking across the Cumberland River, Franklin has proven about all a man can prove at what had been the SEC’s traditional cellar-dweller.

That’s why he’s on Penn State’s short list.  That’s why the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins have reportedly asked for permission to speak with him.  It’s why the Houston Texans did speak to him (reportedly) and why the Tennessee Titans might check to see if he’d be interested in moving a couple of miles across town.

The NFL thing seems a bit farfetched as the two biggest pluses for the young coach are his infectious enthusiasm and his recruiting ability.  And recruiting doesn’t help a whole bunch in the pro game.  That’s not to say Franklin can’t X and O with the best of them, but it’s his attitude — which he’s instilled into Vanderbilt’s program — that’s drawn raves from pundits and wowed some NFL owners.

Today the NFL Network reported that the Washington Redskins plan to meet with Franklin, “likely” this week.  He is believed to have met with Penn State officials yesterday.  There the Pennsylvania native is on a short list that includes two former Nittany Lion players-turned-coaches: Mike Munchak and Larry Johnson.

For his part, Franklin has remained mum at every turn.  Asked by The Tennessean for an interview yesterday he simply texted back: “Excited about going to LA, we can talk later.”  Franklin will be a part of ESPN’s coverage of tonight’s Auburn/Florida State BCS Championship Game.

Tennessean reporter Jeff Lockridge tweeted today that co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry has pulled out of the Georgia Southern head coaching search:

 

2014-01-06 02.53.21 pm

 

Whether that means Pry will stay at Vandy or move with Franklin to the pros or — more likely — Penn State remains to be seen.

The one surprising point in the Penn State/Franklin talk is the lack of talk regarding the ongoing court cases of four former VU players arrested for sexual assault.  As noted previously, defense attorneys for one of the accused requested that the Nashville DA send them transcripts of all phone and/or text conversations between the players and their coaches — including Franklin — on the night of the alleged rape.

As we’ve stated repeatedly, we don’t believe for a second that Franklin helped his players cover up such a heinous act.  However.  If you’re Penn State University can you really afford to ignore the possibility — no matter how small — that Franklin might have helped cover up some portion of something?

David Jones of PennLive.com is the only columnist to broach the topic to date, writing:

 

“But a rape case involving four of his former players at Vanderbilt is ongoing.  Though Franklin has, to this point, been cleared by police and the local DA of any wrongdoing including involvement in a cover-up of any type, the trial is still pending.”

 

Left unwritten is the fact that PSU just went through a massive beatdown at the hands of the justice system, the NCAA, and the public at large for a widespread cover-up of former assistant Jerry Sandusky’s own sex crimes against young boys.

For that reason, if there were one job in America this writer would have automatically ruled out as a potential landing spot for Franklin… it would have been PSU.  So much for that.

Perhaps the folks at Penn State feel they can put up with one or two uncomfortable questions at an introductory press conference if it means introducing the right guy.  Perhaps they feel completely at ease with Franklin’s assurances that there are no skeletons in his closet when it comes to the sexual assault case involving his ex-players.

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Report: James Franklin Tops List Of Penn State Coaching Candidates

James-Franklin-contemplativeWith reports out that Penn State coach Bill O’Brien could be offered the job as the Houston Texans head coach as early as today, speculation has moved on to the next man in charge of the Nittany Lions program.  At the top of the list, according to one report, is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.

Citing “knowledgeable sources within the program,” the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania says Franklin tops the list of potential candidates. David Jones also adds that “athletic director Dave Joyner has direct knowledge of Franklin through family members and third parties who are very impressed with him.”

Other factors working in Franklin’s favor according to Jones:

- He’s a college football coach, not a former NFL guy who wants to return to the professional ranks.

- He’s a motivator who can recruit.

- He’s got an offensive background that “would meld nicely in the tutelage of soph-to-be PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg.”

Jones also notes that Penn State needs to act quickly should the University of Texas target Franklin because the Longhorns “certainly could outbid PSU with its deep pockets and unlimited athletic budget.”

The 8-4 Vanderbilt Commodores play Houston Saturday in the BBVAA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.  When asked about rumors regarding his status on Monday, Franklin simply stated, ““I love the Vandy fans. I love the Vandy nation. I love everything we’re doing,”

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SEC Headlines – 8/1/12

It’s going to be a quick day at the site for three reasons today.  First, I’m writing a longer piece that will go up tomorrow (most likely).  Second, I’m doing a few radio and podcast interviews today.  Third, it’s the one-year anniversary of my cancer surgery and I don’t intend to spend the day typing for hours on this site.

That said, let me also take this moment to encourage you fellas out there to see your doctor, get a prostate exam — it’s 20 seconds of discomfort — and ask your doc about a PSA test — which is simply a blood test.

A group that previously came out and said women shouldn’t get mammographies has recently come out against PSA tests as well.  That groups has caused some to think twice about getting tested.  As someone who had a cancer spreading so quickly that I was given just one or two years to live, I can tell you that my PSA test flat-out saved my life.  And getting the disease at 40, I can also tell you that it’s not just something to have checked when you’re 50 or 60.

If you like this site, do me a favor and ask your doctor about a prostate exam and PSA test.  By speaking about my condition, I know of two men who’ve taken my advice, followed up with testing, found cancer and licked it.  Odds are you will not be #3… but be smart and see your doctor anyway.  Again, those of you who like the site, well, I want to keep you folks around!

Now, onto the headlines:

 

1.  The AP has published its 2012 SEC preview.

2.  Here are five headlines to watch as Florida prepares for fall camp.

3.  Turns out, Georgia told Penn State it would be contacting 19 Nittany Lion players before Mark Richt abruptly changed his mind.  (Or was told to change his mind.  Or found that the 19 PSU players weren’t interested.)

4.  UGA had 105 players report for practice yesterday… but only 76 of those players are on scholarship.

5.  This writer says it’s time Kentucky fans give AD Mitch Barnhart a break.  (ADs never get breaks.  They’re almost always the most unpopular guy in town.)

6.  Dick Vitale has praise for John Calipari, baby!

7.  The SEC made a snap decision to tweak this year’s in-conference basketball schedule and Tennessee has now opened up about who they’ll face twice per year this winter.  (No schools’ permanent rivals have been changed, by the way.)

8.  Vanderbilt has inked a new deal with WLAC-AM 1510 in Nashville which should help boom their football and basketball game further across the region.

9.  Suspended Auburn quarterback Zeke Pike is still at home in Kentucky and won’t be around for the start of the Tigers’ fall camp.

10.  Standard stuff: Alabama is trying to focus on the future, not the past.

11.  Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis whipped a number of ESPN employees in flag football last week.

12.  Rob Bolden may be transferring to LSU, but most folks don’t expect anything close to a quarterback controversy in Baton Rouge.

13.  At Mississippi State, all eyes are on quarterback Tyler Russell.

14.  Hugh Freeze has a lot to worry about at Ole Miss.

15.  Texas A&M’s offensive line had better be improved this season.

16.  And just because a few of you have ordered me to stop mentioning the many facets of the NCAA/Penn State situation — which will come back to bite another school at some point — here’ something else to stew over:  A blog run by attorneys has looked at the Freeh report and determined that the case against Joe Paterno is “weak to non-existent.”

17.  And then they answered some of their critics here.  An interesting pair of reads for those on both sides of this issue.  (If you have an open mind and are okay with calm, cool, rational, debate.  If not, it’s the devil’s work.)

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Bad Karma: How Would Coaches Raiding PSU Feel If The Cleat Were On The Other Foot?

In November of 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman issued “Special Field Orders, No. 120.”  The key part of that famous — or infamous, depending on your view — missive stated that his army would “forage liberally on the country during the march” through Georgia.  The same order was given when Sherman decided to march back up from Savannah through the Carolinas, as well.

Well last Monday, the NCAA issued its own Special Field Orders regarding Penn State.  By allowing Nittany Lion players to transfer without the penalty of having to sit out a year — and even allowing schools to go over the 85-man scholarship limit in order to ink them — Mark Emmert basically gave rival coaches the go-ahead to forage liberally upon Penn State’s roster.

Some schools took quick advantage.  LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee have all already been connected with PSU players, for example.  Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, on the other hand, has said he isn’t actively pursuing any of Bill O’Brien’s players.  Georgia’s Mark Richt initially said he would contact Penn Staters but then reversed course (as though he’d been ordered by UGA brass to do so… or had an angel visit him to instruct him otherwise).  Richt even wished O’Brien well.

Naturally, Southern Cal’s Lane Kiffin took things to the extreme by actually flying across the country to meet with current Penn State running back Silas Redd in Connecticut.

While the raiding parties have been formed, to date no big-time PSU players have transferred.

To date.

On this matter, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer actually provides the voice of reason when it comes to recruiting players from another man’s roster:

 

“I have a problem with it.  I think if a player reaches out and says, “I’m outta here and I’m gone,’ a player has a right to do what he wants to do.  But to go actively recruit, I have a problem with that.” 

 

That’s the correct take, but 20 bucks says a Penn Stater or two will still land on Meyer’s roster anyway.

We all know that illegal contacts are made all the time.  When you see a coach place restrictions on an athlete’s potential landing spots, it usually means the coach feels another coach has been tampering with his roster.  Coaches don’t like that.  Which is exactly why coaches should put themselves in O’Brien’s shoes and think about how they would feel if open season had been declared on their roster.

If a Nittany Lion player calls a coach?  Hey, the coach should answer the phone.  You don’t want to be rude (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  But to openly chase, lure and hunt another school’s players is bad form.  And whether the NCAA has given the green light to wipe Penn State from the face of the Earth or not, it certainly takes the moral high ground away from any coach who leads a raiding party into Happy Valley.  If someone actively seeks out the signature of a current Penn State player, he had better keep his own lips zipped the next time some other school’s coach makes behind-the-scenes contact with an unhappy player on his roster.

All’s fair in love and recruiting and if Coach X doesn’t take part in the Penn State feeding frenzy then it’s possible he’ll be at a disadvantage when he faces Coaches Y and Z in his own conference.  Them’s the breaks.  There’s right and there’s wrong.  Answering a Penn State player’s phone call is alright.  Trying to swipe guys right out from under O’Brien’s nose is wrong.

Coaches better realize that.  ‘Cause what comes around often goes around when it comes to big-time athletics.

 

Instant Karma – John lennon

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SEC Afternoon Headlines 7/23/2012

1. Key to success at Arkansas this fall?  Stop the run.

2. Best battle at quarterback for Alabama?  Backup to AJ McCarron.

3. Auburn coach Gene Chizik is impressed with redshirt freshman linebacker Kris Frost.

4. What cornerback Dehendret Collins means to Ole Miss this fall.

5. Why the next few years of Florida basketball could be very good. 2013 class gets a No. 1 ranking.

6. Former South Carolina and current Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman on the challenges he faced in his old job: “I’ve talked to other athletic directors, and they don’t have some of the challenges that we have here.”

NCAA and Penn State

7. LSU coach Les Miles: ”As unfortunate as the sanctions are, I think we’re all in support. He needed to make a statement and he did.”

8. Stewart Mandel: “Justice has been served, assuming your idea of justice for rape victims is to deprive a school of its next four Outback Bowl invitations.”

9. Jeff Schultz:  ”NCAA president Mark Emmert acted swiftly and justly. “

10. Gene Frenette: “Not one coach or player currently at Penn State had anything to do with the coverup of Sandusky, a convicted felon, abusing so many young boys while serving as Paterno’s defensive coordinator.”

11. Roundup of quotes and reaction.

12. With transfer rules relaxed – expect a feeding frenzy: “I get the feeling that the likes of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Brady Hoke have already perused PSU’s roster and commenced a game of “need it… got it… need it… need it… got it…”

13. What happens when BOTH teams vacate a football game?

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The NCAA Is About To Make A Big Mistake With Penn State

NCAA president Mark Emmert is about to walk down a very slippery slope.  The news that the NCAA will announce sanctions against Penn State’s football program for criminal behavior carried out years ago by men who are no longer in power at the university is a colossal blunder that college sports’ governing body will someday come to regret.

According to reports, the sanctions to be handed down Monday will likely be more damaging than even a one-year death penalty would have been.  Crowds of Americans will cheer because we all love punishment.

But this is 100% the wrong move by a governing body that so often makes the wrong move.

Emmert and the NCAA know that PSU is being annihilated in the court of public opinion.  Don’t think that the NCAA’s decision to pile on Penn State doesn’t have something to do with a feeling that the body can actually make people applaud it for once.  Quite simply, they’ve read the poll numbers and decided to do what everyone wants — punish somebody.  Anybody.  Even coaches, athletic staff and players who had absolutely nothing to do with the Jerry Sandusky situation.

(Sidenote — Anyone else find it odd that we as a people always want some other person punished for their misdeeds, but when we ourselves err, we beg for forgiveness?  What a flawed beast we are.)

In addition to penalizing the innocent, the NCAA is also penalizing those who have already been penalized.  Think Penn State grads like having their diplomas on the wall today?  Think the school, the administration and the faculty haven’t been shamed already?  Think donations and applications haven’t been impacted?  Think the football program — which is going through its first coaching change since 1966 — isn’t finding work harder on the recruiting trail?

What more punishment is needed?  Joe Paterno is dead.  Sandusky will die in prison.  Others in PSU’s administration have lost their jobs, been vilified in the press, and may find themselves subject to legal prosecution.  Hell, all that’s left is to burn the campus down because bad things happened there at one time.

Making matters worse, the NCAA is apparently nixing its usual methods for punishing schools.  There will be no letter of allegations in this case.  There will be no waiting period for Penn State to prepare a defense.  Penn State won’t even be allowed a defense.  The NCAA is expected to act without due process.  They are taking the Freeh Report as gospel and will use it as their “Witches Hammer.”

Well, that’s smart.  A rush to judgement is always a good thing.  Especially in cases like this that will impact hundreds of lives for years to come.  Anyone else out there realize that if another legal team had been given the exact same records from Penn State they might have come to completely different conclusions than Louis Freeh and his team?

But here’s how the NCAA is putting itself in a precarious position.  Emmert and crew are going to penalize a school for criminal/moral failings.  Sounds good.  Until you ask where that line gets drawn.

A former NCAA committee on infractions chairperson told ESPN:

 

“This is unique and this kind of power has never been tested or tried.  It’s unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow (the NCAA president and executive board) have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct…

But this has nothing to do with NCAA business.  This is new.  If they’re going to deal with situations of this kind that have nothing to do with the games of who plays and so on and rather deal with members of the athletic department who act immorally or criminally then it opens up the door to other cases…

The criminal courts are perfectly capable of handling these situations.  This is a new phase and a new thing. They are getting into bad behavior that are somehow connected to those who work in the athletic department.”

 

What if Sandusky had been running a Ponzi scheme out of his Penn State office of years, for example?  Let’s say he’d bilked thousands of people out of millions of dollars.  Ruined countless lives in the process.  Now let’s suppose Penn State officials had known/suspected what was up and looked the other way.  Would the NCAA rush in to smash the football program?

Now let’s bring it a little closer to home.  Let’s say your alma mater or favorite football or basketball program had an assistant coach on staff who battered women.  Folks in the athletic office knew about it.  They’d heard rumors that the women in the coach’s life often carried bruises and cuts.  But the school didn’t act until a woman was hospitalized.  Should the NCAA come in and punish your favorite program?

What if a woman were killed?

What if your school kept covering up for a serial drunk-driving coach right up until the day he ran someone down?

Where is the line to be drawn?  And do you trust the people in the NCAA office to be the ones drawing it?

I know that many people will view this post as a defense of Penn State.  It’s not.  If you claim that’s what it is then you either a) didn’t read this piece in full or b) you wanted to change the facts to suit your own argument.

In this writer’s view — put simply — PSU has already gotten what it deserved… a terrible stain on its reputation.  How many times can the same people be burned at the stake?

Some of you may like that the NCAA is blasting Penn State’s program.  But if the NCAA were about to crush your favorite program for the exact same acts, here’s betting the vast, vast majority of you would be saying that the problem isn’t a sports issue but a legal one and that the NCAA shouldn’t be getting involved.

Again, when someone else screws up, we want blood.  When we ourselves screw up, we want mercy.

In this case, Penn State screwed up.  And the NCAA’s going to give us blood.  But what about the next time a school has criminal or immoral behavior on its campus?  Will the NCAA get involved?  And will you be in favor of it?

This is as dumb a move as could possibly be made.  It will come back to bite the NCAA squarely in its rear in the future.  In fact, this one action may well become Emmert’s legacy.  That’s how big, unusual, and reactionary this move is.

God help them.

 

(And to all the many radio hosts who’ve argued with me over the past few weeks saying that the NCAA would not act even though public opinion would call for it to do so… told ya so.)

UPDATE — A couple of much better writers than myself have taken their time and crafted lengthier pieces than our early morning post.  Good stuff here… and here.

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Saban’s “Tax Penn State” Suggestion Gets National Attention

Nick Saban said during SEC Media Days today that he believes the goal when things go bad should be to work for an improved end… rather than to just dole out punishments.  To that end, asked about the Penn State scandal, Saban tossed out the idea that some sort of ticket tax could be levied against the school with that money then going to child abuse funds.

Now, that simple, “here’s a thought” moment is making the national headlines along the lines of “Saban wants Penn State taxed.”

That certainly wasn’t the spirit of the Alabama’s coach’s comments.  His point was that if something had to be done, why not do something that would allow the current PSU players to escape penalty and help a good cause.

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Slive Brings Up The Penn State Mess, But Not By Name

Slive spoke to the situation at Penn State while talking about NCAA reform.  At no point did he mention PSU by name, but he didn’t have to:

 

“The national agenda for reform is at its heart about integrity.  Last week’s headlines remind us that we must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity and that our primary mission is to educate and protect young people.  We must maintain and honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration.  There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves.  No one program, no one person no matter how popular, no matter how successful can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”

 

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Mullen Won’t Talk Penn State

So how did Dan Mullen wind up as supposedly Penn State’s top choice to replace Joe Paterno when he’s got a 6-6 record this year and he’s never beaten an SEC West school that doesn’t have the world “Ole” in its name?

His father is a Penn State alum.  Actually, PSU officials probably like the Urban Meyer/SEC pedigree as well as the excitement he’s created in Starkville.  (The part about his father can’t hurt, though.)

Asked about numerous reports linking him to the Nittany Lions’ job, Mullen talked up Mississippi State, downplayed the job, and made the following tongue-in-cheek comment:


“Great.  I’m sure I’m on everybody’s (list).  Am I right?  Every time a job comes open, doesn’t my name come up?  So, you know our policy.  We talk Mississippi State football.  That’s all we ever talk about.”


The coach also said that he is happy in Starkville.  Asked what he will tell his players about the rumors, Mullen said:


“I tell them the same thing.  I’m happy here.  Let’s worry about being here.”


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