What Is Going on with This Hugh Freeze Story?
Head football coach Hugh Freeze resigned from Ole Miss without a fight or a severance package after reportedly calling an escort service once.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday evening, Ole Miss made the surprise announcement that Hugh Freeze had resigned as head coach of the football team after the school learned he called a number associated with an escort service from his university-issued phone. Both Freeze and the administration claim the phone call was a misdial—Yahoo reports that it was only a minute long, so it's possible—but it raised enough suspicion that Ole Miss officials checked the rest of his calls and found a "pattern of conduct" that, they say, would have led to his firing for violating the "moral turpitude" clause in his contract had he not resigned.
"He admitted that conduct to us," [athletic director Ross] Bjork said. "None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy."
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter characterized this as "a very hard day. This is a painful decision. But it's the right decision. Together, we will weather the storm."
The revelation comes courtesy of former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt's attorney, Thomas Mars. Nutt is suing Ole Miss for violating the terms of a severance agreement that prohibited the school "from making any statement relative to Coach Nutt's tenure at Ole Miss that may damage or harm his reputation as a football coach." Nutt claims that Ole Miss was waging a behind-the-scenes war, going off-record with journalists to blame him for the NCAA's investigation into rules violations and subsequent Notice of Allegations. In the course of the suit, Mars FOIA'd Freeze's phone records (Ole Miss is a public school) and came across the call to the escort service; he then promptly informed Yahoo and USA Today about it.
Mars also sent the information to Ole Miss, which led to an exhaustive search of Freeze's record. The school says that only found one call to that number, but also somehow unearthed a "pattern of conduct" that was apparently bad enough for Freeze to walk away from a contract that would have paid him almost $5 million per year through 2019. Freeze flatly denies anything untoward regarding it—"There is no story to that one."—but he still resigned based on an admitted pattern of conduct.So… what the hell is going on here?
Ole Miss has been under intense NCAA scrutiny ever since the NOA hit the school with a lack of institutional control charge and accused Freeze of violating "head coach responsibility legislation." It banned itself from the 2017 postseason. Through it all, though, Ole Miss had been firmly in Freeze's corner—until now. Freeze has made his bones preaching faith and tweeting scripture like he came right out of central casting for football coaches, so sure, the sex stuff would be hypocritical, but would Ole Miss actually fire him for it? Would Freeze actually walk away from $15 million because of it? Hell, Bobby Petrino is still coaching. There's got to be something else going on here. Was he setting things up for players? Is this a dumber-by-the-power-of-a-million version of Louisville basketball's scandal? Did they come across texts to VICE Sports' Patrick Hruby detailing how easy it would be to pay college athletes? None of this makes sense, so whatever is about to drop must be pretty bad.