A group from public universities throughout Mississippi that included football coaches Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach asked the state legislature on Thursday to redesign the state's flag without the Confederate symbol.
Kiffin and Leach were among 46 coaches and six administrators from eight campuses who were on hand at the Capitol in Jackson to express support for the flag change.
Nikki McCray-Penson, the women's basketball coach at Mississippi State, joined Ole Miss men's basketball coach Kermit Davis is speaking on behalf of the group.
"Mississippi State University's tradition of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity is hampered by this symbol of hatred," said McCray-Penson, the former Old Dominion coach hired at Mississippi State in April. "We strive in all ways daily to bring the Bulldog family in our state together through competing in sports, excelling in the classroom and making a positive impact in our community. Yet this symbol of hatred is so much bigger than athletics."
The NCAA ruled last week that no postseason events can be played in a state that has a flag bearing the symbol of the Confederacy. Mississippi State's women's basketball team is a frequent host of opening-round play in the NCAA tournament.
Both Kiffin and Leach told ESPN that they support the flag change.
"We removed the flag from our campus five years ago, so we've made it clear that it doesn't represent who we are at Ole Miss," Kiffin, in his first season at Ole Miss, told ESPN. "Today is another big step in doing our part to move the state forward and ensure a more welcoming environment for everyone. This is extremely important to me and to our players. Time to change."
"The purpose of a state flag is to create pride and enthusiasm amongst the citizens," Leach, also in his first season at Mississippi State, told ESPN. "It should also create great energy to elevate the economy, education and athletics. The current flag doesn't do that. We need a state flag that everyone is proud of."
Bulldogs running back Kylin Hill said he won't play for a school representing the state until a new flag is adopted.
The current flag has been in use since 1894. The state legislature either can approve a change or move to give voters the decision with a two-thirds vote of both the 122-member House and 52-person Senate, according to Mississippi Today.
--Field Level Media