After Freeze's resignation, challenges possible in NCAA investig - - Jackson, MS

After Freeze's resignation, challenges possible in NCAA investigation

OXFORD, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Thursday's resignation of Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze creates several hurdles for the Rebels over the next few months, and not just on the field as the 2017 season looms.

Sports reporters speculate the reasons behind Freeze's abrupt departure will make it harder to argue against the NCAA 's allegations against Ole Miss.

The university faces 21 charges of academic, booster and recruiting misconduct, including the biggest one -- lack of institutional control, all of which the NCAA says happened during Freeze's reign.

Now the institution has to make the case that Freeze -- forced to resign for at least one call to an escort service, which Ole Miss leaders call "personal conduct" that would have been a moral breach of contract -- was an ethical coach and didn't engage in any unsavory behavior with recruits or boosters.

That case could be much harder to prove, especially considering the backlash from Rebel fans for the five-year coach who amassed a 39-25 record.

"I can only go on the facts, and that's really how we made our decision. We tried to take the emotional part out of this and what does the record show? What did we discover? How did he address it? He admitted that conduct to us," Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork said. "You know, no one's perfect. None of us in this room are perfect. And I think moving forward, we have to just respect how he resigned and we need to respect his privacy."

  • Late May:  Former Ole Miss Football Coach Houston Nutt filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss and Freeze, demanding an apology for putting the blame for the NCAA investigation the school is facing on Nutt, when more than half of the allegations occurred under Freeze. The suit was filed in late May.
  • July 12: Nutt filed a defamation of character lawsuit.
  • July 14:  Freeze resigned when a phone call was found to an escort service on his university-issued phone. Now the institution has to make the case that Freeze, forced to resign for at least one call to an escort service, which Ole Miss leaders call "personal conduct" that would have been a moral breach of contract. The call was made in January of this year.

Former Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt's lawsuit, which alleges defamation by Freeze and other Ole Miss football staff, will still go forward.

Nutt's suit states members of Ole Miss Athletics leaked false information to reporters in January 2016, claiming that most of the NCAA violations happened during Nutt's tenure.

Yahoo! Sports reported that Nutt would have likely dropped the legal proceedings if he had gotten an apology from Freeze and the university, but that has not yet happened.

Alumni in the Jackson metro area had high hopes for the upcoming season and are still coming to grips with the sudden changes. 

Former Ole Miss Punter Ben Craddock said "I was very shocked, but as a man or a woman we're all human". 

"Everybody from the Ole Miss family is very disappointed," said Central MS Rebel Club past president Eddie Maloney.

Tuesday Freeze spoke to members at the Jackson Country Club during the  Rebel Road Trip.

"It was a very positive meeting and I thought Coach Freeze made a very good speech and things transpired very quickly, and I was shocked just like everybody else," said Maloney a 1972 graduate of the university.

Freeze's resignation has been the talk of sports talk radio.

Friday was Christmas in July if you have the gift of gab. Phone lines lit up like trees, calls, texts, and emails like presents. 

"The meteoric rise, never ever experienced a coach this popular in the state of Mississippi," ESPN 105.9 host Bo Bounds said.

Host Doug Colson anchors the longest running sports talk show in the Magnolia State. "Even with Ole Miss supporting Hugh Freeze the way that they were, when that support starts to erode, or something happens, it goes fast," Colson said. "And to think that he was on the Rebel road trip, was in town on Tuesday, they brought him in, talked to him about this stuff on Wednesday, and by Thursday he was resigning. These things move quick."

Freeze was praised and polarizing to many because of his faith. Mississippi Gridiron's Chris Brooks feels that's one of many factors into the degree of the fallout. He also hosts a midday show on ESPN 105.9 FM.

"You don't necessarily feel bad for Hugh Freeze. You feel for his family, you feel for his kids. But the faith message that he's putting out there for so long, you hate to see it become a part of this. You know it is. Initially it's the first reaction, then after that you start thinking about fans and players and that sort of thing. All of them losers in this big deal."

Ole Miss grads and die hard fans say the university and football program will rebound and they have the utmost confidence in interim head coach Matt Luke, a former Rebel player.

RELATED: Rebel fans react to Freeze resignation

RELATED: Freeze's resignation the talk of sports talk radio

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