Ole Miss Coach Hugh Resigns Over Call to Escort Service and NCAA Violations

Just over three months ago, I wrote about University of Mississippi head football coach Hugh Freeze. Freeze carried a public persona of not just a capable coach, but a man of faith and a father figure to the young men he led on the football field. That image crumbled like a house of cards as Freeze resigned from his position on Thursday night, amidst allegations of NCAA violations against his football program and a shocking personal scandal.

The NCAA has been looking at Ole Miss' treatment of recruits and players for a couple of years now and levied 13 charges of violations against the program last year. In February, the NCAA hammered Ole Miss with another eight allegations, at which point the athletic department issued its own postseason ban, keeping the team out of a bowl game in 2017.

Of the 21 allegations against Ole Miss, 15 of them are Level 1 violations, the most serious category. The accusations range from boosters giving recruits food and merchandise to helping players with car loans to the school putting up players' families in hotels and rental properties — and so much more. The two most telling charges against the program are the famous "lack of institutional control" and the claim that Freeze failed to live up to his leadership duties as head coach. Ole Miss has copped to a few of the violations, while they are contesting others.

But the most serious reason for Freeze's departure — which included no buyout of his contract and no settlement — involves a phone call made from the coach's school-issued cell phone to a number associated with an escort service. Yahoo Sports investigated the matter:

Athletic director Ross Bjork said the initial phone call originally was “attributed to a misdial.” But further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a “pattern of conduct” that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week. Bjork said he and school administrators spoke to Freeze Wednesday night.

“Coach Freeze was very transparent, open, honest and admitted the conduct,” Bjork said, without specifying what that conduct was.

[...]

Yahoo Sports inquired last week with Freeze and Bjork about a call at 8:34 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2016, to a Detroit number that is linked via various websites to a Florida-based escort service. Freeze told Yahoo last Friday that the call had been brought to Ole Miss administrators’ attention by former coach Houston Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, and that they had questioned him about it. Freeze told Yahoo he had no idea why the call was on his phone records.

Freeze initially claimed that, had he been engaging in behavior without integrity, he could have deleted the phone calls from his phone. Ole Miss combed through records of 39,000 calls without finding the same number again, but apparently, they found something that led directly to the coach's resignation.

Interestingly enough, the investigation into Freeze's personal life stemmed from a lawsuit filed against the school by former head coach Houston Nutt, who claimed that Freeze and Ole Miss laid the blame for the NCAA trouble on him. The suit alleges that Ole Miss was willing to besmirch Nutt's character in order to protect Freeze:

Coach Freeze falsely stated that most, if not all, of the NCAA’s allegations involved "Houston Nutt" and his staff. At the time Coach Freeze made these statements, he was fully aware that they were patently false, yet he continued to make such statements, severely damaging Coach Nutt’s reputation. … The protection of Coach Freeze became the University’s Number One priority in dealing with the NCAA investigation.

Bjork called Thursday a "sad day" for Ole Miss.

Freeze had a record of 39-25 in six seasons at Ole Miss. The athletic department has named Matt Luke interim head coach and has not announced plans for the search for a new coach as of yet.

Pray for Hugh Freeze and his family. Pray for the players who certainly feel disappointed in their head coach. Pray for the legions of Ole Miss fans who are devastated just weeks before the season starts. Here's hoping they can turn things around.