In the SEC, winning football games is everything. It brings fans, builds basketball pavilions, renovates baseball stadiums, boosters open up their checkbooks and it can energize a small college town in little ole Mississippi more than you can believe.
How do I know? I witnessed it.
As an Ole Miss alum, four out of the last five years have been some of the best football ever played in Oxford, MS. I’ve attended every bowl game Hugh Freeze has coach in, watched the goal posts be carried through The Square after beating Alabama, and cheered at the top of my lungs in the streets of New Orleans after the Rebels won their first Sugar Bowl since 1970.
I also remember Freeze’s opening press conference. He spewed all of the sayings that Ole Miss fans wanted to hear, because they were fed up with the trash 13-44 SEC record Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt combined for over the previous seven seasons.
Freeze said it just like the Reverend he portrayed.
“The word F.A.M.I.L.Y will be on our team room wall soon enough. The “F” stands for faith in one another. We have to care more about the guy sitting next to us if we are going to be successful. “A” stands for attitude. We have to define who we are to ourselves and not pay attention to how everyone else and the media defines us. I look forward to working and getting to know you members of the media, but it is what we think of ourselves that is important. “M” is for mental toughness. No matter where we are playing, on grass, turf, or parking lots it doesn’t matter. It is the game of football. I promise you next I will hire men that will change the lives of young men and make them mentally tough for all that life has to throw at them. I promise you the guys that I will bring in here will impact these young men’s lives and we will become winers. “I” is for integrity. We have to tell each other the truth. The “L” is my favorite. It stands for the love we have to have. We are going to tell each other we love each other. We are going to love one another. We are going to start talking about love in the way we play. “Y” is for you. It is for everyone in here. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have a love for this place. I am indebted to you. It is a burden that I will carry with me daily. I will carry the flag of this University with energy passion and a positive attitude.”
Knowing what we know now, Freeze left his, so called, ‘F.A.M.I.L.Y.’ in ruins. He left them with 17 NCAA violations under his watch, a self imposed postseason ban for the 2017 season, a deduction of eleven total scholarships, an interim head coach who has never led a football team from that position in his life, and the unknown final ruling of the NCAA.
It makes me think that the “F” in F.A.M.I.L.Y. stands for something else now.
The one main problem I have with Hugh Freeze is the persona. The Jesus loving, bible reading, church praying man that shoots off scripture verses on Twitter like he’s Joel Osteen, is far from practicing what he preaches. I’m not anti-religion or saying that you don’t have the right to freedom of speech, but Freeze was caught denying too many lies over the last 5 years for me to take his Godliness seriously. In my opinion, using your faith to gain leverage is one of the worst things that you can do. Don’t depict yourself as something you are far from.
Great News:We no longer have 2 hope or pray that someday we can measure up to Gods standard.Jesus measured up on our behalf.Have a great day
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) June 30, 2017
I believe 1 can make a difference? 1 letter, 1 phone call, 1 act of kindness, 1 prayer for someone, 1 help to a stranger.Let’s try 1 of each
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) November 14, 2016
The “1 phone call” he tweeted about made a difference in the end.
But why did Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffery Vitter and Athletic Director Ross Bjork stand behind Freeze when every road led to lies?
I think they were influenced by the money. The University of Mississippi is a southern public school that is predominately white, christian and wealthy. Hugh Freeze fits the criteria and more importantly, he won football games. I believe it was the big boosters who made Vitter and Bjork hold on to Freeze. After being served with 22 NCAA infractions, nobody in their right mind would say what Ross Bjork said.
“We will vigorously defend the university against those allegations we believe are not appropriately supported, including that we lacked institutional control and that our head football coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance or monitor staff in our football program.”
How I see it, universities are like puppets, and those with the money are the puppeteers. There’s no way Bjork really believed Freeze knew nothing about all of the accused wrong doings. All it took was an alleged butt-dial to a Tampa based escort service for them to pull the plug and admit they were wrong about their head coach.
It’s a sad story because as an Ole Miss fan, I’m not sure where the football program, which is a big funding mechanism for the school, goes from here. They have a 5-star quarterback in Shea Patterson to be the face of the team. But, with the NCAA yet to send down a final ruling, Ole Miss could possibly lose him because players have the ability to transfer immediately with an additional two-year postseason ban.
Since Freeze resigned, the school did save the $12 million left on his contract to pay a new top tier head coach, but whoever takes the job is going into a situation working behind the eight-ball.
Ole Miss did this to itself. It hired the Godly head coach who promised the world, but in the end lied and cheated his way to the top before ultimately leaving them in the cellar to pick up the pieces. I’m not sure when the Rebels will get back to where they were, but it’s going to take a great head coach, a new image and time. The problem with college football, time is of the essence.