HOOVER, Ala.–The SEC closed its annual Media Days from the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama on Thursday afternoon. As the final session of the day came to a close, all eyes were on Head Coach Hugh Freeze as he responds to a lawsuit from his predecessor, Houston Nutt, who coached the Rebels from the 2008 to 2011 football seasons.
The lawsuit stems from a pending NCAA investigation of Ole Miss athletics, in which Nutt claims a “false narrative” was propagated by the University. Ole Miss received a Notice of Allegations in January 2016, reporting 13 allegations of misconduct to which the University responded with a report 120 pages long. Later in 2017, the Rebels were handed 8 more violations, bringing the total to 21.
This report was not enough to spare Freeze from a volley of questions after his press conference today. For thirty minutes, Freeze was able to speak about the variety of problems his team faced for the upcoming season. He answered eight questions—six of which focused on the legal issues around the program. These questions ranged from the lawsuit, to the bowl ban, to how his family is coping with all the media attention.
“They’re getting a taste of what the other side can be like when your dad’s not quite as popular with a lot of people, and it’s been a growing experience. Some have handled it better than others, but there’s no question it’s been one of the greater challenges for me as a father to really make sure they understand the value of loving one another, and what you can learn from difficult times that you’re going through” Freeze said.
Dealings with his family have been difficult for Freeze, now going into his sixth season with the Rebels. He concedes that while his legacy has no doubt been negative in some people’s eyes, he will be the one who decides what he leaves in Oxford.
“I do have a plan of this is what I would like to be known as and to be known for doing. And I’ve got all that written down. The only thing I can control is not how people view me because they read some article or they perceive something to be this way. What I can control is doing everything today that gets me the result that I want 20 years from now from the people that really matter,” Freeze responded.
This adage seems to be echoed by the players under him. Both Shea Patterson, the young quarterback looking to start his first full season as a rebel, and Javon Patterson, a star offensive lineman, noted that the team remains focused on the games ahead.
“We don’t pay attention to anything like that. We are a brotherhood and we pay attention to our brothers. We go out there every day at 6:30 to work out and then again at 4:00. Things like that really build our team and our culture. Things like that make us special” Javon Patterson said.
Shea shared similar thoughts, noting how all he can be is the best version of himself and rely on his teammates and support staff.
“I think it has brought us all closer together. Adversity tends to crumble people a part or brings guys together. I have never been around a group of guys and coaches that have worked as hard as we have in the spring in the summer. I think we are going to take that chip on our shoulder going into the season” Shea Patterson predicted.
Ole Miss will have a tough time handling the allegations, especially now also dealing with a lawsuit from the previous head coach. However, if Nutt is right, and the explanation given by Ole Miss is inaccurate, the Rebel’s future could take an even sharper turn.