Light the African prayer candles! As of 7:44 PM this evening, Ole Miss announced that Coach Hugh Freeze had resigned and would be replaced by interim head coach Matt Luke. This comes at the end of a long road of NCAA allegations, potential violations, and several interesting football seasons. Frankly the first signs of this came when Ole Miss pulled a top 2013 recruiting class out of the blue. The strangest part was that class included three five stars from out of the state of Mississippi. While no one could prove anything, Hugh Freeze was rattling off wins against top SEC teams such as Alabama. For the first time in a long time, Ole Miss was competing for SEC division championships.
The first domino fell when the NCAA issued its first Notice of Allegations in January of 2016, which roped in Ole Miss football, women’s basketball, and track & field. The consensus seemed to be that most of the violations within the football program stemmed from Houston Nutt’s tenure as head coach. This deflected a lot of the criticism from Hugh Freeze for the time being. This fact would also come into play later.
The NCAA reopened the case when Laremy Tunsil’s social media accounts were hacked on draft night. Messages were posted on Tunsil’s Instagram that showed Tunsil taking money from former Ole Miss associate AD John Miller. Later that night, Tunsil admitted to taking money from Ole Miss coaches. This caused the NCAA to begin investigating new sanctions with Ole Miss.
In May, Ole Miss responded to the first NCAA Notice of Allegations. In responding to the 28 violations, Ole Miss attempted to get ahead of the curve by instituting a one year postseason ban for women’s basketball. As well, Ole Miss chose to take away eleven football scholarships over the following four seasons. After Ole Miss’ response, the NCAA begins interviewing players formerly recruited by Ole Miss. These players are promised immunity for their testimony, and that is where the bulk of the second NOA is believed to come from.
In December of 2016, Ole Miss fired Barney Farrar. Farrar was an assistant coach who was directly connected to the Laremy Tunsil pay-for-play scandal. Farrar’s attorney would later claim that the school fired him to try to place all of the blame on him, a common theme in this investigation.
In February of this year, the NCAA issued the second NOA. This NOA named eight new allegations, including lack of institutional control. Ole Miss then announces a self imposed 2017 bowl ban. On June 6, Ole Miss responded to the allegations, standing by Hugh Freeze. The claim was that the individuals involved acted on their own.
Later that month, an Ole Miss clothing store which allegedly gave two recruits thousands of dollars in gear, sues those two recruits for testifying to the NCAA. Rebel Rags’ suit against Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine their NCAA testimony.
Exactly one month to the day after that, and during SEC media days, former coach Houston Nutt sues Ole Miss. He claims that the university attempted to deface his character by blaming the violations on him, and provides detailed information on Hugh Freeze’s phone records. That detailed information consequently led to this bombshell today:
— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) July 21, 2017
Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork to #ESPN: “Once we looked at the rest of the phone records we found a pattern. It was troubling.”
— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) July 21, 2017
Leo Lewis, one of the players interviewed in the NCAA Notice of Allegations, dropped this on Twitter shortly after the news broke:
— Leo Lewis III (@LeoLewisIII) July 20, 2017
And if you needed any more proof that the administration at Ole Miss has completely and utterly botched the handling of this situation:
Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork on *Monday* praising Freeze for promoting right atmosphere, “having the culture that’s right for our university.” pic.twitter.com/V1wl6x2AVF
— Jessica Benson (@Local24Jessica) July 21, 2017
With all of the Freeze drama over, I feel that there is only one thing left to say:
— Jon Reed (@Jon__Reed) June 29, 2016