In a shocking announcement made Thursday morning, Ole Miss revealed that it has parted ways with a pair of key football assistants. Dan Werner will not return as the co-offensive coordinator and Barney Farrar, the recruiting assistant tied to the leaked Laremy Tunsil texts, will not have his contract renewed.
We knew this year’s dismal 5-7 season would force Hugh Freeze to make overdue changes to his coaching staff—indeed we’d already seen defensive coordinator Dave Wommack forced into retirement. But Werner’s departure comes as somewhat of a surprise given that sources had previously told the Ole Miss Spirit that he and fellow co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke were the only locks to be retained. Not that the move doesn’t make sense—for all of the criticism heaped on Ole Miss’ dreadful defense, the offense wasn’t much better down the stretch. With a struggling offensive line and a busted run game, the unit fell into large stretches of impotency after the season-ending knee injury to Chad Kelly. Retaining both Werner and Luke would have been a hard sell to a fan base clamoring for more creative offensive playcalling.
The departure of Farrar, who was rumored to have been placed on administrative leave last month, is a potentially ominous sign for the Rebels’ ongoing NCAA investigation. Farrar was one of the athletics staffers implicated during the draft day hacking of Tunsil’s social media accounts, which included screen shots of alleged conversations between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletics director John Miller. One of those screenshots showed Tunsil asking for rent money from Miller, who responded, “See Barney next week.” Ole Miss later confirmed that the texts are real, and while the university did suggest the messages could have been altered in some way, Tunsil himself seemingly admitted to taking money from coaches during a post-draft press conference.
Farrar, for his part, claimed Tunsil had never asked him for money nor had he given it.
The hacking drama in April indefinitely extended an NCAA probe that had otherwise all but wrapped up in Oxford. Ole Miss quickly requested that its hearing with the Committee on Infractions be postponed while it opened up an investigation into the Tunsil mess. The NCAA’s own investigation, it should be noted, recently expanded to include players at other SEC West schools who were also recruited by Ole Miss—players who were offered immunity in exchange for dirt on Hugh Freeze’s program.
With rumors of Farrar’s firing buzzing back in July, Freeze took the podium at SEC Media Days to assert that he had no staff changes planned—though he did say he would do so if evidence of violations were to be discovered.
“But I will if need be. My guys know the expectations, and I'm certainly far from perfect, as many of you know. But one area that is not a temptation for me is to cut corners to try to have success. That doesn't interest me at all, and my staff knows that. I'm not talking about you don't make a mistake, and that's the neat thing that we'll have when we get to go in front of the Committee of Infractions. We'll get to discuss some of the things that led to that (mistake) that are not quite as cut and dry as it might be in some people's eyes. But it's still a mistake that we have to be accountable for.”