Ole Miss is finally set to bring their NCAA saga to a conclusion. They appear before the Committee on Infractions in Covington, Kentucky from September 11th – September 13th.
The university has imposed sanctions for many of the alleged violations. Ole Miss agrees with virtually every allegation; however, they contest the severity of several allegations. The biggest talking points are Ole Miss vehement disagreement to the dreaded Lack of Institutional Control and their defense of Hugh Freeze’s program.
Freeze was charged with Failure to Monitor his program. Failure to Monitor is an attempt to hold head coaches accountable for the actions of their staff. The NCAA basically says if you didn’t know you should have and if you did know, you should have stopped it.
A Polarizing Figure
Freeze was a polarizing figure from the moment he arrived in Oxford. He won recruiting battles many thought he shouldn’t, and won games Ole Miss shouldn’t win. He also got too good too fast.
However, football had little to do with why Freeze was so controversial. He led on a persona of being a godly man. He tweeted bible verses daily and claimed Ole Miss recruited a different kind of kid. You can’t claim Ole Miss recruits better kids when one of your best players got drunk and/or high and fell out a hotel window.
Freeze’s public religious beliefs brought on mass scrutiny. Many felt he was a liar and had destructive skeletons in his closet. Those people sought to expose Hugh Freeze for the fraud they felt he was. Well, they were right. Freeze abruptly resigned on July 20, 2017. He resigned amid a defamation lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. Nutt claimed Freeze was pinning the vast majority of the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss on Nutt, which Nutt claimed was preventing him from getting another job as a head coach.
Seeking evidence for the defamation suit, Nutt’s lawyers requested phone records of Freeze. Nutt’s lawyers were seeking calls to journalists and other media members to paint a picture of defamation, but found something much more damning.
Freeze was found to have made numerous calls to escort services while on recruiting trips for strictly personal use. The university, and others, also discovered calls to erotic massage parlors made on recruiting trips.
Freeze, for some reason, used his university issued phone to orchestrate his infidelities. That phone was subject FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. However, Freeze did have the ability to redact any calls deemed personal in nature before turning over the phone records. Well, he forgot some and got canned for it.
The universities official reason for firing Freeze was a pattern of personal misconduct.
On Field Highs and Lows:
Ole Miss saw astronomical highs and some embarrassingly painful lows during the reality show that was Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss. High’s include back-to-back wins over Alabama, Sugar Bowl win, 2013 upset over LSU and back-to-back Egg Bowl wins over a Dak Prescott led Mississippi State. More on this game later.
2012 Egg Bowl
Freeze had rebel fans starting to buy in to him after this game. Ole Miss was in the midst of an extended losing streak to their rivals from the South. Ole Miss entered the game 5-6. A Donte’ Moncrief explosion later and Ole Miss was 6-6 and had embarrassed their in-state rivals.
2013 at Texas
Ole Miss thrashed Texas in Austin to announce they were officially on the uphill climb towards relevance. They dominated Texas by a score of 44-23. This was Freeze’s first true signature moment in Oxford.
Ole Miss had no business beating LSU that October. They did. Ole Miss won 27-24, but they controlled the majority of the game. Ole Miss was depleted on defense and forced Zach Mettenberger to turn the ball over all night. They played inspired football all night, and pulled off an enormous upset.
Ole Miss announced their arrival to the pinnacle of College football on this October day. Ole Miss entered the game undefeated and on the verge of the top-10 in national polls. They would jump out to a quick 3-0 lead only to enter halftime down 14-3. And then, things got really fun. Laquon Treadwell did Laquon Treadwell things and cut the lead to 14-10. Alabama would later add a field goal to go up 17-10. Then, Bo Wallace hit Vince Sanders for a touchdown to tie the game. On the ensuing kick-off, Alabama fumbled and Ole Miss recovered. By this point, Vaught-Hemingway was understandably going absolutely bananas. A few plays later, Bo Wallace connected with Jaylen Walton for the go-ahead touchdown. However, in an extremely Ole Miss turn-of-events the rebels didn’t convert the extra-point. And then, it happened. The moment Ole Miss fans will never forget. Alabama had drove down into Ole Miss territory and decided to take a shot to O.J. Howard. Senquez Golson had other ideas. He intercepted the pass and the game was over. His interception was initially ruled incomplete. A few seconds later, Ole Miss fans were storming the field and tearing down the goal posts. Ole Miss had finally arrived.
2014 Egg Bowl
Another game Ole Miss shouldn’t have won. The Offense was decimated by injuries. Laquon Treadwell had broken his leg, and Vince Sanders went down early in the game. Also, rumors of Freeze leaving for Florida swirled. However, Ole Miss played an amazing game. The defense shut down a potent Mississippi State offense led by Dak Prescott. Jaylen Walton broke a ridiculous run, and Jordan Wilkins, yes the running back, threw a touchdown pass to propel Ole Miss past MSU.
2015 at Alabama
Ole Miss proved they weren’t a fluke in Tuscaloosa on this night. Chad Kelly led the rebels into Bryant-Denny Stadium and walked out with a strong, albeit wacky, win. Quincy Adeboyjoe caught a pass after it bounced off a defender’s helmet and ran it for a touchdown. The play started with the snap going over Kelly’s head. Like I said, wacky. Ole Miss had beaten the mighty Alabama in consecutive seasons and was in the National Championship discussion.
2015 LSU- Ole Miss flat out dominated LSU in Oxford.
2015 Egg Bowl
Chad Kelly continued his offensive tear and spoiled Dak Prescott’s otherwise iconic, unmatched senior night and his immaculate Mississippi State career.
2016 Sugar Bowl
Ahh, the holy grail of bowl games to Ole Miss and most SEC fans. Ole Miss had finally made it back to the Sugar Bowl and played Oklahoma State. The Rebels were looking to erase the memory of the egg they dropped in their previous New Years Six bowl. They did. Ole Miss took Oklahoma State to the woodshed. They won 48-20 and, well, it wasn’t even that close. Chad Kelly and Laquon Treadwell were breaking records all night, and Laremy Tunsil caught a touchdown. Freeze was rightfully immortalizing his prized recruits that turned the Ole Miss program around, except for Robert Nkemdiche who did not play.
2013 Egg Bowl
Ole Miss laid a proverbial egg in this 17-10 defeat. Mississippi State was on their third string quarterback and won the game. Bo Wallace sealed the loss in an embarrassingly Bad Bo way. He fumbled the ball out of the endzone without being touched in overtime. Had he not contracted butter laced hands, he was going to score the tying touchdown.
Ole Miss should have won this game. However, things happened and they lost. Ole Miss had was in field goal range as time was running out. Freeze got gutsy and tried to score the game winning touchdown instead. Bo Wallace threw an interception and the chance to tie the game was lost.
This lowpoint has nothing to do with Freeze. This was the infamous Laquon Treadwell injury game. Treadwell was attempting to score the game winning touchdown but was tackled and fumbled at like the inch yard line. In the process, Treadwell broke his leg and some other stuff and well was done for the season. Ole Miss fans were devastated. Those at the game stared in silence and probably cried, while those at home stared blankly at their television for what seemed like hours. Ole Miss dream season had come to a crashing halt in mere seconds.
This was an absolutely embarrassing game. Ole Miss traveled to Fayeteville and got curb-stomped. Arkansas won 30-0 and Ole Miss didn’t really do anything productive all game long.
2014 Peach Bowl
This game was borderline murder. TCU annihilated Ole Miss by a score of 42-3. The defense forced more turnovers than the offense scored points. 5 turnovers to 3 points.
Ole Miss entered Gainesville undefeated and ranked #3 in the nation. They did not leave that way. Florida dominated Ole Miss with a score of 38-10 in a game that was never close.
Perhaps the most embarrassing loss of the Freeze tenure was Memphis. Ole Miss somehow was outplayed all day by Memphis. Memphis erased a 14-0 deficit to upset Ole Miss.
This game is second in terms of heartbreak to only 2014 Auburn, if that. Ole Miss entered the game in control of the SEC West. All they had to do was win out and they were going to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. Well they lost 53-52 in overtime. Arkansas converted a 4th and 25 in overtime on an insane fluke play. We’ve all seen the play. Then, they scored a touchdown and decided to go for a two-point conversion. Ole Miss stopped them, or so they thought. Marquis Haynes was flagged for a facemask penalty and Arkansas had another chance. Arkansas capitalized and won the game, breaking Ole Miss hearts.
2016 FSU and Alabama
These games were eerily similar, so I have grouped them together. Ole Miss jumped out to large early leads in both games. However, bad defense and turnovers on offense led to excruciating second half collapses.
2016 Egg Bowl
Easily the worst loss Freeze suffered, Ole Miss lost 55-20. Ole Miss was without starting quarterback Chad Kelly and tightend Evan Engram, but that’s no excuse for simply not trying. Mississippi State ran the ball right down Ole Miss’ throats all day. Any pass play was a bad play for MSU as all they had to do was run in a straight line.
Despite the on-field highs and lows, Freeze’s impact and legacy is most felt by analyzing recruiting, and the current Ole Miss team. After all, recruiting is what brought Ole Miss to where they are today.
Recruiting led to both Freeze’s unprecedented success and also to his droll, seemingly inevitable downfall. Freeze won numerous recruiting battles during his tenure, which brought in some of the most talented players in the nation. These players are obviously directly correlated to Freeze’s success. However, Freeze lost plenty of those battles, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A couple examples are: Jeffery Simmons, Leo Lewis, Willie Gay, and Shyheim Carter. The list could go on and on, especially at linebacker.
Saturdays game against UT-Martin was an excellent display of Freeze’s legacy on this Ole Miss football team. Ole Miss won 45-23 and Shea Patterson set a school record for passing yards in a game. Also, the Ole Miss receiving core, led by A.J. Brown, had a banner day. However, the defense was atrocious at times.
On UT-Martin’s first possession they more closely resembled toddlers than SEC football players. Okay, that is actually derogatory to the Toddlers. UT-Martin ran the ball right down the throats of Ole Miss and dominated the line of scrimmage. Ole Miss would eventually fall behind 9-0 and 16-7 before taking a 17-10 lead into halftime. Then, the superior offensive talent took over.
Shea Patterson, A.J. Brown, Damarkus Lodge, and the rest of the rebel offense exploded in the second half. Patterson threw for 489 yards and five touchdowns, while A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge terrorized the Skyhawk defense all afternoon. Freeze effectively recruited offense, but often failed on the defensive side of the ball. This has created a remarkably frustrating and entertaining team that won’t win very many SEC games. However, they will probably beat someone they shouldn’t and ruin their season.