On July 20th, 2017, Hugh Freeze resigned effective immediately as Ole Miss head coach. Freeze was head coach from 2012 through 2016.
ANNOUNCEMENT | Hugh Freeze has resigned effective immediately. Matt Luke interim head coach. Press conference live at 7:30 PM CT on ESPNews.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) July 20, 2017
The embattled Freeze has been under fire in recent years. Beloved at his school for reviving the program–the Rebels defeated Alabama in both 2014 and 2015, and they reached a New Years Six bowl in 2014–the problems began in 2015, when star lineman Laremy Tunsil was suspended for seven games for receiving impermissible benefits.
At some schools, an issue such as a player receiving impermissible benefits can be a one-time thing. One player received something, but it doesn’t indicate anything institutional. At Ole Miss, that isn’t what happened. Tunsil was just the start. After the news about him broke, the allegations against the program exploded.
The NCAA found 30 violations that it charged Ole Miss with in early 2016. Ole Miss and Freeze responded, attempting to blame much of the institutional problems (at least in football) on former head coach Houston Nutt. Ole Miss saw the writing on the wall, though, and elected to self-impose a bowl ban, along with other sanctions, on the football team for this coming season.
The attempt to blame the football issues on Nutt may have backfired, and tremendously at that. Nutt responded with a detailed lawsuit against Ole Miss, alleging a breach of contract and seeking damages. The lawsuit personally names and blames Freeze for many of the issues, which many saw as immediately damaging to his job.
Whether or not Freeze’s sudden resignation is related to the NCAA allegations, Nutt’s allegations, or some other issue is yet to be seen. Rumors have surfaced from Nutt’s lawsuit, as Freeze’s phone records showed a one-minute conversation with a number linked to an escort service.
At a press conference, Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and athletic director Ross Bjork announced that the resignation was due to a “pattern of personal misconduct” and declined to state further details, in order to protect the privacy of Freeze. They explicitly stated that the resignation had nothing to do with the hovering NCAA allegations, and a closing line offering “thoughts and prayers” to Freeze and his family implied that it was something very serious and personal. It was also mentioned that Freeze had a chance to redact his phone calls, and Bjork told ESPN that “once we looked at the rest of the phone records we found a pattern. It was troubling. Bjork said that Freeze’s conduct would have resulted in “termination with cause” had Freeze not resigned, and he added that there would be no buyout or settlement.
Check back here for more information on this developing story as it becomes available.