COLUMN: Freeze not alone in the blame for Ole Miss troubles
By Graham Dunn
When calamities take place, such as the one we are witnessing in Oxford these days, I can’t help but refer to the master of the macabre, William Shakespeare…
This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Granted, Hugh Freeze is no king. Nor is he the soldier who has been foretold of a future in royalty.
As it turns out, Freeze is just a football coach who didn’t know how far he could go without getting caught with his pants down.
Now, he has to wonder where his future lies. Ditto for the University of Mississippi football program.
I could go into a number of other Shakespeare quotes that fit here… tangled webs, outed candles, and the alike… but what we as football consumers are dealing with here is another example of somebody wanting to be a heavyweight without going through the proper channels to get there.
In other words, he gave up the “process” and tried the shortcut instead.
I use that term only because Freeze apparently has a close relationship with the man – Nick Saban - who has all but perfected what it takes to build a national championship football program.
And it does not involve call girls.
Let’s review where we were before last Thursday’s introduction into the apparent dark world of Hugh Freeze.
Go back to the early days at Briarcrest High School where Freeze made a name for himself as an up and comer. He followed through with assistants jobs at several stops and got his first head coaching job in college in 2011 at Arkansas State.
A year later, he was leading an SEC program that had been mired in mediocrity since 1963, the last “true” conference title in the program’s not-so-illustrious history.
After a couple of wins over Alabama, two berths in New Year’s Day bowls, Ole Miss is swimming again in typical waters of mediocrity.
But this bunch has also been a bit loose with history. The media guide brags about three teams named national champions between 1959-1962 – none of which were the recognized AP or UPI. The ’59 title was the most suspect since Ole Miss didn’t win the conference title, finishing third to Georgia and LSU that year.
Ole Miss takes credit for a division title in 2003 despite losing to conference and national champion LSU that season.
Since the league split into divisions in 1992, the Rebels have enjoyed just five winning seasons in SEC play. Two of those came under the direction of Freeze, which explains part of the reason why the Ole Miss heads of state were willing to fight any accusations of malfeasance by the current staff.
Ole Miss is one of only three teams out of the original group of 12 to have never made it to the SEC Championship game (Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the others).
This is a program crying out for acceptance and has for 50 years.
So, when news came on Thursday of Freeze and his apparent off the field shenanigans, it really came as no surprise to see the look on the face of athletic director Ross Bjork as well as school chancellor Jeffrey Vitter as they made the announcement that Freeze would no longer be a part of the program.
Freeze has become an easy target with his talk of character and faith being his foundation. Since the first accusation, he has continued a staunch defense of the image of the program as well as his own.
While Freeze is certainly guilty of bad choices, let’s not forget who hired him.
At the moment, those in charge give the impression of status quo as long as the culprit was not caught. If Freeze had a history of solicitation, the question of how long did Bjork and others know of his illicit practices? And if the rumors are true and plenty of Ole Miss faithful were aware of Freeze’s lifestyle, how in the world did those in charge not know?
The denials will continue but it leads to another prevailing thought of whether or not the NCAA investigation has the goods on all involved and whether or not the Ole Miss regime is just buying time.
As more facts are released, the Ole Miss administration looks to play a similar part that Freeze has acted out.
As for Freeze, success made him comfortable in his own skin. Deep in the recesses of his mind, he had to know that one day he would answer for his actions.
That day has come. He has lost all but everything.
Will Ole Miss be next? That prose is about to be written.