Hugh Freeze

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Report: Houston Nutt proposes settlement for Ole Miss if Rebels will issue apology

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The battle lines have been drawn in the sand between Ole Miss and former head coach Houston Nutt after Nutt filed a lawsuit against the university after not receiving an apology. Nutt will still accept that apology and agree to a settlement with Ole Miss, should the school choose to go that route, according to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.

“The settlement proposal we presented to Ole Miss is focused on the apology Houston Nutt has consistently asked for and fully deserves,” Nutt’s attorney Thomas Mars said to ESPN. “After all, there’s no longer any doubt about what happened here.”

According to the ESPN report, part of the proposed settlement would see Nutt donate $500,000 to establish a state commission on sports ethics in Mississippi.

As we have previously covered in this ongoing dispute between the Rebels and Nutt, it looks like this lawsuit could have easily been avoided by Ole Miss if the university just would have apologized to Nutt for what he believed to be a defamation of character due to how the university portrayed Nutt following the release of the Notice of Allegations last year. Nutt issued his warning that he would proceed with a lawsuit if Ole Miss did not comply with his demand for an apology, and he followed through on his threat last month, which ultimately led to the removal of Hugh Freeze as the head coach of the football program shortly after SEC Media Days.

Nutt believes officials from Ole Miss have spread word in conversations with media members suggesting Nutt’s actions were to blame for Ole Miss’ NCAA issues. Those comments would have been in violation of the typical NCAA investigation process, as comments about ongoing investigations are not typically allowed while the process is ongoing.

If Ole Miss does not agree to apologize to Nutt, this legal squabble will drag on. Nutt is giving Ole Miss a chance to pack it up and move on, but whether the school has a vested interest in doing so remains to be seen.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

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Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

NCAA charges Ole Miss of lack of institutional control; Rebels self-impose 2017 postseason ban

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The Ole Miss Rebels will not be going to a postseason game in 2017 after the university opted to self-impose a one-year postseason ban. The decision came as a result of an updated notice of allegations received from the NCAA as part of an expanded investigation. The school has charged the program and university of a lack of institutional control.

Ole Miss Chancellor Jeff Vitter, athletics director Ross Bjork and football coach Hugh Freeze provided an update on the latest regarding its NCAA investigation with a video.

In addition to the 2017 postseason ban, Ole Miss will forfeit all annual postseason revenue (reportedly to be about $7 million).

The latest notice of allegations included eight potential violations from the football program, including setting up hunting trips for a student-athlete on private land owned by a booster, providing housing for recruits and boosters providing food to student-athletes enrolled at another institution and more. Freeze was charged with violating head coach responsibility legislation. As expected, Ole Miss will contest the latest allegations levied against the university and football program that are deemed not supported by evidence.

The latest allegations:

  1. Prospective student-athlete went hunting on private land owned by booster, arranged by football program (Level III)
  2. Former staff member arranged for lodging and transportation for prospective student-athlete enrolled at another institution (Level I)
  3. Same former staff member knowingly committed recruiting violations and provided false information to enforcement staff (Level I)
  4. Same former staff member initiated and facilitated two boosters having contact with a recruit (Level I)
  5. A different former staff member arranged for friend of a recruit and two recruits to receive merchandise from a store owned by a booster amounting to $2,800 (Level I)
  6. Freeze had impermissible in-person, off-campus contact with a recruit (Level III)
  7. Booster provided money, food and drinks to a recruit and his companions at booster-owned restaurant on two to three occasions (Level I)
  8. Freeze violated head coach responsibility legislation
  9. Scope and nature of violations demonstrate university lacked institutional control and failed to monitor conduct and administration of athletics program (Level I)

Ole Miss has 90 days to appeal.

No. 23 Ole Miss blows away No. 12 Georgia

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The story of September for No. 23 Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 SEC) had been the inability to keep its foot on the gas pedal once it jumped out to a sizable lead against a quality opponent. Whether it was a lesson learned or the mere fact that No. 12 Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) was over-ranked heading in, the Rebels did not let up Saturday afternoon in Oxford. Ole Miss built a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, took a 31-0 lead into the halftime break and went on to demolish Georgia, 45-14.

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was able to get an early rest after one extremely productive first half. Before Hugh Freeze handed the offense to backups quarterbacks, Kelly completed 16 of 21 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The ball was distributed pretty well between the running and passing games as well. Eight different players caught a pass for Ole Miss, and seven different Rebels carried the football at least once. Kelly took off four times for 53 yards and a touchdown in addition to his efficient day through the air.

Georgia’s running duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rushed for a combined 123 yards, but neither scored a touchdown before the game started to get out of hand and away from Georgia’s strength. The early hole meant Georgia had to try and catch up through the air, with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason having a rough afternoon on the road. Eason completed 16 of 36 pass attempts for 137 yards and an interception, and a number of dropped passes.

Georgia will return home and hope the momentum is quick to swing back in its favor next week. The Bulldogs play a pivotal SEC East contest against Tennessee. The Vols are playing an important SEC East game today against Florida. Georgia may need a win at home to bounce back, with games at South Carolina and at home against Vanderbilt following before a bye week. After the bye week comes the annual game in Jacksonville against Florida. How Kirby Smart gets his team to come back next week with Eason will be key as Georgia looks to prove this loss was a bit of a fluke.

There was certainly nothing flukey about it though, as Ole Miss showed what they can do when they play a complete game. For the first time this season, Ole Miss did not get tired against a physical opponent and continued to make plays all afternoon to lock down the win. This was one Ole Miss needed to have after the way this month has played out thus far. Next up for Ole Miss is a bit of a revenge game at home next week against Memphis of the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers stunned Ole Miss last season with Paxton Lynch at quarterback and Justin Fuente coaching. Both have moved on from Memphis (Lynch to the NFL, Fuente to Virginia Tech), so the Tigers will have their work cut out for them if they are to pull the stunner once more. Ole Miss will be a prohibitive favorite and get a chance to get to the bye week with a winning record before heading to Arkansas and then to LSU before returning home to play Auburn.

No. 4 Florida State goes on 33-0 run to take down No. 11 Ole Miss

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Orlando, Florida may be home to the happiest place on Earth, but No. 11 Ole Miss (0-1) is leaving town with nothing but disappointment. The Rebels blew a 22-point lead against No. 4 Florida State (1-0) in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando. The Seminoles ripped off 33 straight points on their way to a 45-34 victory. It was the largest come-form-behind victory in Florida State history.

Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois went through some growing pains in his first start for Florida State at quarterback, but gained some confidence in leading a late touchdown drive in the first half and came out looking like a brand new player in the second. Francois passed for 420 yards and two touchdowns without an interception or a fumble (one fumble by Francois was overruled upon video review). He looked like a freshman starting his first game in the first half, because he was a freshman starting his first game in the first half. And he was going up against a solid Ole Miss defense, which crumbled in the second half as Florida State gobbled up a decisive edge in the time of possession department.

Ole Miss did have success running an up-tempo offense against Florida State early on, which played a part in building a 28-6 lead in the first half, but the wear and tear on the defense showed in the second half as Florida State looked like the fresher of the two teams. The Rebels saw Chad Kelly look confident and living up to the hype of being the best quarterback in the SEC with three touchdowns in the first half, but he also cooled off in the second half and was picked off three times in the game, the last coming with under three minutes remaining in the game to essentially put to rest any hope of a win for Ole Miss.

THREE QUICK THOUGHTS

1. You cannot turn the ball over against Florida State and expect to win. Ole Miss did so three times, with a trio of interceptions thrown by Kelly among them. Florida State is not going to dig holes too often this season the way they did Monday night, and there are only a small handful of offenses that will be able to hang with Florida State and have the potential to overcome a deficit in the turnover margin (Clemson, Louisville… Miami?).

2. One observation to take from Sunday night’s Texas-Notre Dame game is the Longhorns could be turning a corner but must still learn how to finish a game. Texas had a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter before seeing Notre Dame battle back and eventually get the game to overtime. Texas escaped with the win, but it was a lesson that could be learned in Austin. The same experience must be earned in Oxford. Ole Miss was in command of the game shortly before halftime, when Florida State scored a late touchdown to gain some momentum at the break. The Seminoles then went on a tear with a 24-0 run in the third quarter and a 33-0 run overall before the Rebels got back on the board, going from up 28-6 to down 39-34. Perhaps this can be an assessment of the coaching. Jimbo Fisher held a decisive edge while Hugh Freeze will have some questions that need answers.

3. Dalvin Cook turned in a fine effort, even if he did have the bonehead play of the game. Cook was mere yards away from reaching the end zone in the second quarter on a pass play but for some reason switched the position of the ball in his hands before he crossed the goal line, uncontested. The ball dribbled loose out of bounds and instead of a touchdown, Florida State was reduced to settling for a field goal. All was forgiven later, as Cook ended his night with 192 all-purpose yards, including 101 receiving yards.

Florida State opens its home schedule next week against Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers gave North Dakota State a solid test in the FCS opener two weekends ago and demolished Kentucky State at home this past weekend. As good as they may be in the FCS ranks (and they are really good), Florida State should manage to avoid any real threat of a massive upset in Tallahassee. Ole Miss also gets an FCS opponent next weekend at home when they host Wofford. Wofford opened its season with a 21-7 road victory at Tennessee Tech on Thursday night. After getting by Wofford, Ole Miss has two pivotal game sin SEC play at home against Alabama and Georgia. Then comes a revenge game against Memphis. Memphis upset the Rebels last season.