There should be zero celebration for a coach that destroyed your program.
Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will be in Oxford this weekend to take on Ole Miss for the first time since his “resignation” in July 2017.
There has been plenty of excitement surrounding this matchup, and I’m having a hard time figuring out why. Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers came to town a few weeks ago, and not one person was ready to applaud him as he ran out of the tunnel, despite being a former Ole Miss head coach for years, too. Why is this game different from playing, say Georgia Southern?
This game should be treated like the independent, non-power 5 opponent that it is. It’s a filler game to break up facing SEC opponents every week and give the walk-ons a chance to play. The only reason it’s even being talked about is because Freeze won a few bowl games and beat Alabama a couple of times. Let’s not forget the numerous vacated wins that resulted from his actions, and the ongoing effects that we’re still suffering from today.
I would like to elaborate on how two of my favorite sayings work together to paint the perfect picture of why….
“Oh, what tangled webs we weave if at first, we practice to deceive.”
Let’s go back to 2016. Ole Miss had just won the Sugar Bowl, coming off back-to-back wins over Alabama. Fans and players alike were head over heels for head coach Hugh Freeze. Following the massive bowl win, however, Ole Miss was faced with numerous allegations and were about to undergo an extensive and brutal few years under NCAA investigation. The Ole Miss officials at the time decided to defend and deflect all of the possible allegations and assure the media and fans that all violations came from the previous Ole Miss coach, Houston Nutt. Understandably, Nutt was upset and asked for a public apology from Freeze and the former athletic director Ross Bjork. They declined, and Nutt sued for defamation. This is only the beginning of the end for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my actions.”
While preparing for this lawsuit, Nutt and his lawyers requested numbers from Ole Miss during a specific six-day period from January 2016, as he had suspicions that Freeze was having off the record conversations with reporters. As fate would have it, he wasn’t doing a whole lot of conversing. A strange number popped up on the search, and it came from a Detroit number linked to a Florida-based escort service. Ole Miss officials defended Freeze again, at first. It was only a minute long phone call, and Freeze assured them and the media “it was just a misdial.” However, the Rebel administration took matters into their own hands, and launched their own investigation into Freeze’s phone records. Here’s a shocker, they found a “pattern of personal conduct.” Freeze was then given an ultimatum. Resign or be fired, and we’ll have to tell everyone what you did. He decided to resign, and on a Thursday evening in July, the Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and AD Ross Bjork headed into a press conference that would change the trajectory of Ole Miss athletics for over five years. They announced that Freeze resigned after a “pattern of personal conduct inconsistent with the standard of expectations for the leader of our football team.” A media member then asked what precisely the investigation pulled up, and Bjork said that “I think we need to protect that information.” It is still unclear who he was still trying to protect.
Looking ahead, there were almost no repercussions for Freeze. He resigned as a millionaire, his family stood by his side and he was hired by another football program less than a year later. Ole Miss, on the other hand, was forced to vacate 33 wins from those beloved seasons, accept a two-year post season ban, undergo a three-year probationary period and a four-year ban of scholarships. Recruiting slowed down, and players no longer wanted to play for a team that had zero hope of reaching a post season bowl game. Five years later, Ole Miss is still dealing with the consequences of Hugh Freeze’s actions.
With knowing all of this, and the embarrassment that came from it, there is still a devastatingly large group of the fan base that doesn’t fault him. When it comes down to it, facts don’t care about your feelings.
On Saturday morning when the Rebels take on Liberty, there should be no standing ovation or applause for a man that single-handedly wreaked havoc on this program. People who make stupid choices don’t get exceptions because they won you the Sugar Bowl. Treat this exactly as it is: A former coach that took your program through a few good years before turning it into a dumpster fire as he walked away with the lighter unscathed. It’s his Super Bowl, not ours. Don’t give Hugh anymore than that.
Rebs by 100.
Ruby Draayer is a junior journalism major from Las Vegas, Nevada, and is the assistant sports editor of The Daily Mississippian.