Kiffin, Leach to lobby for flag change at state capitol Thursday

Thursday has the potential to be a historic day at the Mississippi capitol amid the increasing pressure placed on lawmakers to change the controversial state flag. On hand to assist with the game plan in Jackson will be a large group of coaches and administrators from both Ole Miss and Mississippi State. 

Throughout the week, calls for the removal of Mississippi’s flag have intensified. A change is supported by leadership in both the House and Senate as Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann appear to be setting the stage for the potential passage of a resolution that could suspend the rules in an attempt to remove the current flag, which carries the Confederate battle emblem. 

An action that caught everyone’s attention in Mississippi was a pair of announcements from the SEC and the NCAA regarding the prohibition of championship events in the state until a change is made to the flag. Sports are undoubtedly akin to religion in Mississippi, and several key leaders will arrive in Jackson Thursday to make a last-minute push. 

Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger was the first to report that Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach will headline a group of representatives for their respective athletic departments. Since the initial report, Ole Miss’ contingent, according to SI’s Nathanael Gabler, now includes Athletic Director Keith Carter, baseball coach Mike Bianco, men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis, women’s basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin and track & field coach Connie Price-Smith. 

From Mississippi State, Leach will be joined by AD John Cohen, baseball coach Chris Lemonis, men’s basketball coach Ben Howland, women’s basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson, softball coach Samantha Rickets and track & field coach Chris Woods — this according to SI’s Joel Coleman. 

Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Glenn Boyce and MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum will also be in attendance. Boyce and Keenum were at the capitol Wednesday along with other university leaders and IHL representatives. 

To change the flag, a 2/3 vote is needed in each chamber in order to suspend the rules to allow for the introduction of a bill at this late-stage of the 2020 legislative session. That bill could either decommission the current flag, place an initiative on the ballot, or adopt a new flag.

Governor Tate Reeves has continued to hold firm on his position that only a vote of the people should change the flag, but in a Facebook post late Wednesday, he acknowledged that a 2/3 vote would signify an inevitable outcome. 

“Some legislative leaders have changed their position multiple times in recent days. Right now, they are considering suspending the rules to change the flag. It would take a two-thirds vote. That’s how many it takes to override a veto.

Make no mistake, a vote to change the rules is a vote to change the flag. If they get those votes, a veto would be pointless. That debate would be over, and the flag would change,” the Governor’s post partially reads. 

Several of Mississippi’s statewide elected officials, including Lt. Governor Hosemann, have suggested replacing the controversial emblem on the state flag with the state seal featuring “In God We Trust.”

The House and Senate are set to gavel in at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.