By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
TAMPA — For the first time since the spring game, Florida football coach Dan Mullen met with the media prior to his speech Wednesday to the Tampa Gator Club at Armature Works.
From the accusations against former UF quarterback Jalon Jones to the recent transfer of cornerback Chris Steele, Mullen addressed the recent offseason troubles that have unfolded in the public eye.
“There are a lot of things that you go through as a coach. There are scenarios that are going to come up,” Mullen said. “There’s highs, there’s lows at times of stuff you have to deal with. I don’t think it’s frustrating or angry. There’s more a little bit of disappointment than anything else.”
Jones, whom Mullen recruited since his freshman year of high school, was accused of sexually assaulting two female students April 6. The women declined to press charges against Jones, but he entered the NCAA transfer database late last month regardless.
Mullen explained why Jones played in the spring game April 13.
“Reports were coming out to us at that point,” Mullen said. “But within that situation, as reports get to you, we try to turn them over and follow the university and campus protocols that we have. I think we immediately tried to follow campus protocol with everything that happened and when we got the details of the situation, we immediately suspended him from team activities until we could get all the information.”
The Sun first reported details surrounding Steele’s departure last Thursday. According to sources, the decision stemmed from the April 6 incident and a request Steele made during his first month on campus to not room with Jones.
A plan was in place to move Steele in the summer, but the assault accusations led to an irreparable situation, according to sources. When Steele’s parents first learned of the allegations against Jones through the release of the police reports May 2, he and his family decided it was in his best interest to transfer, sources said.
There were also reports of Steele being homesick, which he denied to The Sun.
Mullen did not get into the specifics of Steele’s transfer Wednesday, but said a lot of factors were in play.
“I think with Chris and his situation, we discussed with him and his family a lot of things that went into the decision he was going to make to go to school back on the West Coast,” Mullen said. “To me, there were a bunch of things that went into that decision. I don’t really want to go into all of them, because they were really kind of a private conversation between us and his family. Those are tough decisions for family, and I’d rather leave a lot of those things private.”
Mullen said he and his wife flew to California last Wednesday to support Steele with his decision, whether he elected to return or transfer. Steele announced Tuesday he will transfer to Oregon.
Mullen, asked if there’s anything he would have done differently with the Steele situation, was noncommittal.
“I don’t know. I think there was a lot that went into that for him and his family in that decision,” Mullen said. “One of the things that we’ve done is try to support him. For me, I’ve supported him from the day he got on campus and even through today. We’re still trying to support him and help him work through his decision and help him in the future.”
Mullen also answered questions regarding the ongoing legal troubles surrounding Florida cornerback Brian Edwards and director of player personnel Otis Yelverton. He said Edwards is still taking classes but not participating in team activities, while Yelverton remains on administrative leave.
Edwards was arrested earlier this month on a misdemeanor battery charge for allegedly grabbing his girlfriend by the neck when she tried to leave their apartment during an argument. Edwards pleaded not guilty.
Yelverton, 51, is facing a third-degree felony for aggravated cyberstalking.
“It’s really disappointing for us when we have individuals, whether it’s a student-athlete or a staff member, make a decision that really negatively affects them, but also shines a little bit of a negative on the program,” Mullen said. “I do like to make sure processes play out for individuals. … Even though you may like to rush to a judgment immediately, you do like to let processes play out for individuals before I rush to judge their futures when they haven’t even gone through a legal process or anything else.
“I don’t see anything acceptable about that, any violence toward women, whether it’s a violent act or a wrongful sexual act. I’d love to take a strong stance to that, but I also like to have all the information before I have to make final decisions.”