Thursday afternoon, in the wake of an ongoing NCAA investigation, Hugh Freeze stepped down as the head football coach at the University of Mississippi.
At 6:24 eastern time, Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports tweeted the following: “Explosive new information has put Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze’s job in immediate jeopardy. A decision should come soon.” Around 6:45, the official Ole Miss Football social media accounts revealed that Freeze had resigned and offensive line coach/co-offensive coordinator, Matt Luke, had been named the interim head coach.
Athletic Director, Ross Bjork held a press conference at 7:30. He emphasized that Freeze’s resignation was not connected to the NCAA investigation. Bjork stated that Freeze’s personal phone records were investigated and a pattern of misconduct was discovered. Bjork claims that Freeze was proactive and transparent and offered his resignation.
Ole Miss Faces Tough Times Ahead
Bjork did not comment on the exact details of the misconduct, he said, out of respect for Freeze’s privacy. Numerous reports indicate review of Freeze’s phone records show he had made at least one call to an escort service from his university provided phone. Whether the call was for Freeze himself, or someone else, is unclear, as is what prompted the look into his phone records, what or who tipped the school off?
Freeze did address his coaching staff and team before the decision was made public.
In addition to Matt Luke being named interim head coach, Wesley McGriff was also promoted to associate head coach.
Freeze was 39-25 in five years at the helm in Oxford, with four post season games, including a 2015 Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Prior to Mississippi State, he spent one year as head coach at Arkansas State. When Freeze took over the Ole Miss program in December of 2011, the Rebels had suffered two consecutive losing seasons and had depth issues at nearly every position. In 2016, the Rebels were only able to muster five wins and missed out on a bowl game for the first time during Freeze’s tenure. It was also that cloud of a two year long NCAA investigation that hung over his Ole Miss program. The final report from the infractions committee lists 21 major infractions, most of them coming during his tenure. The rest come under former Rebels coach Houston Nutt, who is also suing the university for defamation. The biggest of the infractions is the daunting “Lack of Institutional Control,” the phrase the NCAA uses for its most severe cases. Ole Miss had one last opportunity to respond to the allegations before the NCAA metes out the penalties, which could be any week now.
How the team responds to the loss of the head coach just weeks before training camp officially opens will tough to assume. At SEC Media Days just last week, Freeze said, “Whatever is occurring out there has zero bearing on their opportunity to get a degree. Zero bearing on their developing into being the best man they can be.” It’s enough to say when you are still to guide them, but now that he has stepped down in the wake of a personal controversy, it is easy to see how the season will begin in turmoil.