On Thursday, one week after a testimony at SEC Media Days, two weeks after Houston Nutt filed a lawsuit against the university and less than two months left until kickoff, Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze announced his resignation — effective immediately.
Naturally, social media has come alive in response to the announcement, and it has been a mixed bag for Freeze. His position in the Oxford community has been celebrated by some and criticized by others. This trend remains relatively the same. Some Twitter users have forged memes, while others keep the Freeze family in their prayers.
I don’t how much an escort costs, but Hugh Freeze just paid about $20 million for one phone call. Yahtzee.
— Brandon Walker (@BWalker_SEC) July 21, 2017
I am sending out prayers to Hugh Freeze’s daughters and wife. No matter what the conduct is..they are the real victims.
— Kristen White (@kwhite0221) July 21, 2017
This unfolds after a phone call from Freeze’s university phone made to an alleged escort service was brought to light following a public records request made by Houston Nutt’s legal representative in a news story from USA TODAY Sports.
In a press conference following the announcement, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said Freeze’s resignation came as “a pattern of personal misconduct inconsistent with the standards expected from the leader of our football team” was brought to the attention of the university.
He stressed that the reason for Freeze’s dismissal is of no relation to the NCAA investigation.
“We released coach Freeze’s work-related phone records for six days in January of 2016. Coach Freeze redacted personal calls from those phone records before they were released. There was a phone call that was not redacted and it was brought to our attention in the middle of last week,” Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the university, said.
Bjork said that upon first look, it was the only phone call Freeze had made to that number in his tenure. Because of the spontaneity of the call and the fact that it lasted less than one minute, it was first believed to be a misdial.
Bjork said the university proactively looked into the remainder of the phone records, where a concerning pattern was discovered.
In Freeze’s absence, Matt Luke, the previous offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator, has been named interim head coach. Wesley McGriff, previously the new defensive coordinator, was named an associate head coach.
Bjork was firm when discussing the monetary issues of Freeze’s contract. Freeze signed a contract earlier in 2017 for four years, the maximum-length contract allowable for state employees in Mississippi, which granted him $4.7 million per year.
This is long gone for coach Freeze.
“There is nothing,” Bjork said. “No buy out. No settlement.”
When asked about the concern of players leaving the program, Bjork said he is not sure.
“It’s hard to say right now. We start practice in less than two weeks and have a game on Sept. 2. From what I can tell, they’re going to lock in and focus,” Bjork said at the press conference.
Focus is nothing new to Freeze, as he has been known for his poise within the Oxford community and Rebel family for years.
Following the announcement of the postseason ban, the team has established an unfortunate routine. Bjork said he thought the players were locked in and that while he saw that some heads went down, as one might expect, they were ready to move forward.
“Several of them came up and hugged me and Matt Luke and the coaches. As we did, I thought, ‘Man, they were solid.’ They were ready to roll. We talked about 40-something days ’til opening game, and I think they handled it very well,” Bjork said.
This news comes as a blow to an already shaken Rebel program, riddled with NCAA allegations turned a lawsuit from his predecessor, Houston Nutt. In his SEC Media Days presser last week, Freeze answered only eight questions — six of which were in regard to potential NCAA recruiting violations or Nutt.
With a new coaching leadership and less than two months left until kickoff, the Rebels seem to have a long way to go with a short time to get there.