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Situation grows hotter for Freeze, Ole Miss

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, July 14, 2017
Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze walks off the field after an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Mississippi won 37-27. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze walks off the field after an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Mississippi won 37-27. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

HOOVER, Ala. -- At a golf tournament in May, Ole Miss football Coach Hugh Freeze was asked about the NCAA investigation into Rebels athletics, including 21 alleged violations against the football program.

Freeze, who was mentioned in conjunction with 17 of those violations, turned and walked away without answering.

He didn't have that luxury Thursday here at SEC football media days. Instead, he relied on a tired trick: He filibustered.

Coaches are required to spend 30 minutes in the main media room, which is where the newspapers and major websites work.

Usually, coaches make opening statements, generally four or five minutes, and then take questions. Nick Saban's opener usually takes a little longer, but he's won five national championships.

Thursday, Freeze was the last of the 14 SEC football coaches to face the media, and his opening statement lasted 16 minutes. It might have been longer, but he ran out of material when he talked about who might be the deep snapper.

When he finally opened it to questions, our man Bob Holt asked the first one, and it was simple: What was Freeze's reaction to Houston Nutt's lawsuit against Ole Miss?

"I would absolutely love to share my opinion on it," he said. "Unfortunately, it's a legal case, and I can't comment."

If anyone in the room believed that, they were wearing Ole Miss blue and red.

It was obvious Freeze was not comfortable Thursday, and while he praised his administration -- one that seems to stick its neck out for him more every day -- there was a wee bit of blame by saying, you have to be able to trust the people you hire. When asked about the drama around the program, he said, "Well, I mean we obviously have created it in and around our program."

There were a lot of "we," "ours" and "us" in the 14 minutes he used to answer eight questions.

All told, he talked 28 of the 30 minutes.

Obviously, Ole Miss is guilty of something. The school self-imposed a bowl ban for this season but is fighting a charge that Freeze failed to monitor his program -- a major violation.

At least Ole Miss has been defending him, but for how long now that Nutt has sued for defamation? In the 20-page filing, Freeze's name was used more than 60 times. Athletic Director Ross Bjork's name appeared 14 times.

Freeze started raising eyebrows when his second recruiting class (2013) ranked seventh in the nation and included three five-star players -- one from Georgia, one from Florida and one from Illinois.

He followed that with classes that ranked 19th and 21st before landing the No. 7 class again. That one, the 2016 class, is mentioned prominently in Nutt's lawsuit, and it had two five-star recruits -- one from Florida and one from Texas.

Ed Orgeron coached Ole Miss for three seasons, and he was lauded for his great recruiting. His classes ranked Nos. 30, 15 and 27.

Oxford, Miss., is a beautiful city and the Ole Miss campus is terrific, but you have to pass a lot of other beautiful schools with more football tradition when you are traveling from Florida, Texas, Georgia or Illinois.

Ole Miss has survived bigger issues than a NCAA investigation, but that was before this administration and before social media.

After reading Nutt's lawsuit, it's apparent Freeze and Bjork did things to make Nutt angry enough to fight Ole Miss in an Oxford court.

Right now, Ole Miss needs to look out for Ole Miss and get this drama over with sooner than later.

Sports on 07/14/2017

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