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Hugh Freeze Out: What Next For Ole Miss?

An ordeal in Oxford.

A week removed from the news that Hugh Freeze is out at Ole Miss, those involved with the program have had time to take stock and reflect.

Where does Freeze’s departure leave the program in terms of its on-field progress? What will happen with its pending case with the NCAA? Are times going to get worse before they get better in Oxford?

All these questions and more are the subject of pondering in Mississippi and beyond.

The Hugh Freeze Downfall

Freeze was, in a sports sense, a dead man walking at Ole Miss. The NCAA put his football program on notice after alleging numerous rule violations. There were 21 in total, and the dreaded “lack of institutional control” charge came forth. Under Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss recruiting (allegedly) doled out cash.

Now, the old adage “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” comes to mind, so I’m sure someone out there is trying to justify it. “That there evil Nick Saban done pays his recruits all the time!!!!” may occur to you, and look, we’re not here to litigate NCAA allegations not brought against other programs.

The hammer has yet to drop, but when it does, it’ll probably be ugly. Ole Miss is already serving a self-imposed bowl ban for 2017, as well as a scholarship reduction. That won’t be enough, most likely.

Other happenings are going on at the school, too. Ole Miss is being sued by Houston Nutt, former head coach and current TV commentator. During his time in Oxford, he got a rule named after him, but the coach was shown the door. Now, Nutt is suing his erstwhile employer for defamation resulting from bad PR, among other things.

Oh, and Hugh Freeze got caught calling an escort service. As if the myriad of NCAA allegations weren’t enough, the possibility of paid-for booty calls was too much for Ole Miss.

The Hugh Freeze Aftermath

Yesterday on his radio show, Greg McElroy described the Hugh Freeze situation as “sad” for the program and Freeze’s family. He’s not wrong. Putting aside all of the football considerations, Freeze has family relationships about which to worry, or not. We don’t know their reactions and frankly, it’s a private matter.

A lot has been made, at least from certain sectors, on the faith of Hugh Freeze. Clearly, practicing what one preaches is more difficult than it looks. That doesn’t make all people of faith bad people or hypocrites. If Freeze is, he has to figure that out on his own. It’s not for me pass judgment there. Other places are quick to do so, as is their wont, but the Morality Police ain’t working here.

On the subject of football, Ole Miss is in a miserable situation. They underwhelmed last season, and now, they’re adrift in the wilderness. NCAA sanctions are also coming down the pike soon, only intensifying the shitstorm coming to Oxford. How bad is anyone’s guess, and the only thing we know is it won’t be the “death penalty.” If Penn State didn’t get it a few years ago, Ole Miss won’t now. Baylor might, but that’s a whole different ballgame.

For now, Ole Miss has Matt Luke as its interim head coach. That’s as good as it’s going to get and it’s not up for debate. They would be foolish to bring someone else into this mess, and a decent coach would have to be desperate to go to Ole Miss at this point. That’s not a slight against what has otherwise been a successful program. It’s just that said coach would be walking into an NCAA bear trap.

There are no good answers for the program today, and there won’t be tomorrow. Until the NCAA axe swings, it’s hard to know how bad this gets for the Rebels football program.

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