As I watched the press conference at Liberty University on Friday morning, announcing the hiring of former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, I immediately had 2 thoughts.
- I bet Ole Miss is going to try and hire Freeze back.
- I wonder what Tom Mars, attorney for Houston Nutt, thinks about this.
On my first thought, Ole Miss hired a Freeze assistant (Matt Luke), and kept his staff intact – all guys that were hired by Freeze. In fact, after all of the NCAA mess, the only people at Ole Miss that lost their jobs, along with Freeze, were former assistants Barney Farrar and Chris Kiffin, and university attorney Lee Tyner.
The school chancellor, athletic director Ross Bjork, and everyone else at the school remain employed. Now, to be fair, the assistants there right now had nothing to do with what happened, but, under normal circumstances, schools like to wipe the slate clean after the NCAA comes down with a 2 year bowl ban, etc. Instead, the school stood pat.
Freeze, for everything that was alleged, was basically given a pass by the NCAA. Had he been hired by a school last season, he would have been required to serve a 2 game suspension. Now that the 2018 season has passed, Freeze is free and clear to resume coaching.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke, coming off of a 5-7 campaign in his first season, has 2 years remaining on his contract. Ole Miss fans are already calling for his head. There’s no excitement around the program.
Would it surprise anybody if Ole Miss were to let Luke’s contract run out in 2 years, and then try to hire Freeze back after 2 successful years at Liberty?
Even if Freeze isn’t totally successful, it still wouldn’t surprise me. The people in power in Oxford never wanted Freeze gone. They know how he operates. They can be closer to the program with him there. Freeze has proven he can win there. Auburn did the same thing with Gene Chizik. Remember, Chizik was 5-19 as a head coach at Iowa St before Auburn hired him.
Now, to my second thought…
I reached out to Tom Mars, the attorney for Houston Nutt that filed a lawsuit against the University of Mississippi, which uncovered the phone calls that initially cost Freeze his job.
I simply asked him what he thought about Freeze getting the job, and what he thought about the press conference at Liberty on Friday.
He responded with this:
I probably know as much about the mistakes that Coach Freeze made at Ole Miss as anyone on the planet. So it’s fair to say that I have a unique perspective on the merits of Liberty hiring Hugh Freeze as its new head coach.Coach Freeze paid a steep price for his mistakes – personally, financially, and professionally, not to mention the damage to his reputation on a national stage. Frankly, he deserved all that, but he deserves a second chance to prove that he’s learned from his mistakes and has changed.Sure, Liberty took a risk in hiring him and has already caught a lot of flak for doing so. I could be wrong, but it’s a pretty safe bet that Coach Freeze won’t repeat the mistakes he made in the past. I hope he’ll prove that I’m right about that.The only thing that still irks me is that Coach Freeze has never owned up to his involvement in misleading all those recruits who were on the fence about signing with Ole Miss in late January 2016 or to smearing Coach Nutt’s reputation in order to mislead those recruits and their parents. Ole Miss apologized, so why hasn’t he done the same?Everyone knows that apologizing to all the people you’ve wronged is a prerequisite to redemption for anyone who wants a fresh start. I really hope Coach Freeze will consider doing that while people are still debating the merits of Liberty hiring him as their head coach. As they say, it’s never too late to do the right thing. What’s more, publicly apologizing to his former players and Coach Nutt would go a long way to convince people that Coach Freeze can be trusted not to repeat the mistakes he made at Ole Miss.Whether he has the courage and integrity to do that remains to be seen. In any event, I wish Coach Freeze the best as he begins the next chapter of his career. Everyone loves a good comeback story.
I will admit, I did not immediately think about Freeze’s misleading recruits, many of which have transferred from Ole Miss in the wake of those events.
If you want to read more about the introductory press conference, check out Saturday Down South’s story.