Hugh Freeze will not have an opportunity to improve on his only losing season at Ole Miss. Less than two weeks before the start of summer workouts, and 40 days before the 2017 season opener, Freeze is no longer the head coach of the Rebels.
The shocking details about the sudden resignation of Freeze were pared out by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and athletics director Ross Bjork during a press conference called on the fly Thursday evening.
The decision made by Freeze had nothing to do with an ongoing NCAA investigation involving the football program. Both Bjork and Vitter outlined certain standards of morals and personal misconduct in regards to Freeze resigning after five seasons on the job. Details revolved around phone calls made on Freeze’s university issued phone as well as an open records request that was made involving a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.
“Earlier this month, as is reported in response to a public record request, we release coach Freeze’s work-related phone records for six days in January of 2016,” Bjork said. “Coach Freeze redacted personal calls from those phone records before they were released. There was a phone call that was not redacted and it was brought to our attention in the middle of last week. We did a quick assessment and determined that this was the only time that that particular number was ever called from coach Freeze’s phone since he started working here at Ole Miss in 2011.
Because the call lasted less than one minute and did not appear at the time to be part of a pattern, we initially attributed this call to a misdialed number. As part of our core values in running the athletics program, we have an obligation to do the right thing, so we proactively looked into the rest of his phone records. In our analysis, we discovered a pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations as the leader of our football program. As of yesterday, there appeared to be a concerning pattern.”
Bjork said Freeze admitted to the conduct Wednesday night, and that he was open and honest about the transgressions. Freeze made the decision to resign Thursday and then addressed the team before leaving the Manning Center.
Bjork said that Matt Luke will serve as the interim coach this season, while Wesley McGriff will serve as the associate coach. He was asked about a search for a permanent replacement.
“It’s about the team. The team is the focus right now,” Bjork said. “I told the football staff that the number one thing, from beginning to end, is the team and that’s all that matters. I haven’t even thought about a search. We had to get a plan in place right now. We start practice in less than two weeks. There will be a lot of time to conduct a search for a permanent head coach.”
Freeze ends his career at Ole Miss with an overall record of 39-25. He was 19-21 in the SEC and 5-7 this past season. He did lead the Rebels to two wins over Alabama during his tenure, as well as a win over Oklahoma State in the 2016 Sugar Bowl.