clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hugh Freeze on Ole Miss vs. the world: 'The truth is probably somewhere in the middle'

New, comments

At SEC Media Days, the Ole Miss coach didn't get into specifics about his program's NCAA investigation, but maintained he runs a clean program.

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze addressed a crowd of reporters at SEC Media Days, but couldn't speak much on the NCAA investigation currently hounding his football program.

"I would love to address our NCAA case right now, and as I've said, with the limited amount that I can discuss, I remain very confident in who we are and our core values and how we do things," he said in his opening comment. "We discovered most of the facts that led to self-reports, and that's how a good compliance office works.

"As a head coach, I understand that I'm held accountable for the things that happened within our building and even outside the walls of our building. Our compliance team is working extremely hard to seek a resolution to this case and into the -- and also into the events from NFL draft night and we look forward to the conclusion of this entire process."

Freeze and the Rebels have had a busy offseason, to say the least.

The fifth-year head coach kicked off a 2016 he'd probably like to forget when the NCAA alleged his program broke 13 different rules ranging from academic fraud to facilitating payments to the families of Ole Miss players. The university self-imposed a number of penalties related to the four-year league investigation, but is still waiting for official sanctions.

"Everybody's got a narrative," Freeze said. "You have one, I have one, our rivals have one. All of us have one in regards to us going on in the world and in our world with the NCAA. It's obvious that the allegations have come. We've got our notice. I would encourage you to read our response, and we look forward to that day.

"But with everybody's narrative going on, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle."

"Sometimes you make decisions that probably aren't the sharpest," he said when asked about a 2013 tweet inviting those with evidence of Ole Miss breaking rules to turn it in, which doesn't appear to have produced anything for the NCAA, but still looks regrettable in hindsight. "Like I said earlier, I did mean that with sincerity."

While that NCAA issue simmered in the background, Mississippi became the center of a media hailstorm when former player Laremy Tunsil's Instagram account posted alleged chat logs between the player and a Rebel staffer on draft night.

Those logs appeared to show Tunsil asking a coach for funds to help cover housing costs while he was still a student-athlete. The All-SEC lineman later appeared to admit to reporters he had accepted money from a coach at some point.

On Thursday, Freeze characterized the motivation behind the hacks that dropped Tunsil to the 14th overall pick as "evil."

"Kids still make mistakes, and he did," he said. "But the evilness in this world, the fact that someone would do that at that moment to young men, is very saddening."

Despite the recent scandal, the Ole Miss coach has steadfastly maintained he and his staff are clean, a theme he stuck to at Media Days.

Our Ole Miss site is just glad Freeze made it through the event without saying anything dumb.

"I have zero interest in cutting corners to be successful," the Ole Miss coach said. "As head coach, I understand I'm held accountable on what happens in our building and outside our building."

Mississippi tight end Evan Engram said the ongoing storm wasn't penetrating the Rebel locker room.

"As a team, we've been talking to prepare inside out. We don't worry about outsiders. It doesn't matter, we have people taking care of that. We just worry about football. We show up to work every day to get better and work toward our goals, which are winning in Atlanta and competing for a national championship."

Teammate D.J. Jones reiterated that theme.

"Stay the course. We have bigger things going on. We have a season coming up and a big game in September [against Florida State]."