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Not long for this world, Hugh Freeze dared too much


NCAA Football: SEC Media Days Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

1. Hugh Freeze is gone. Done. Over. Finished. The sword stroke that terminated five years in Oxford. Five tumultuous years cannon-shot forward by a COME AT ME BRO tweet regarding the 2013 recruiting class. A class that was snared through nefarious NCAA means. A class that rocketed into the ether of the AP poll in 2014 and 2015, only to plummet to hell in 2016. A class that would spur a years-long NCAA investigation into the most private lives of student-athletes, coaches, and extended families. A class that produced three first-round NFL Draft talents. A class that launched itself out of an Atlanta hotel room window. A class to be loved, to be forgotten.

2. Hugh Freeze won some damn football games. He toppled juggernaut Alabama in 2014 and 2015, then screwed the pooch in 2016. That pissed Nick Saban off to no end, undoubtedly, and it preserved Freeze’s job security in the face of a mounting NCAA probe. Then he called a Tampa based escort service in 2016 and all that came crumbling down. But not before a Sugar Bowl beatdown of Oklahoma State to cap off an impressive 2015 season. But not before a Peach Bowl meltdown at the hands of TCU to end the 2014 season. Dr. Bo lost his medical license for that one.

3. Hugh Freeze — Brother Hugh — is succeeded by Matt Luke. Matt Luke’s name spans half the Gospels. Matt Luke relinquishes offensive coordinator duties to ... whom exactly? Who’s going to be up in Shea Patterson’s ear come autumn Saturdays in 2017? Phil Longo? You? Me? Freeze made some interesting play calls in his time at the helm — especially inside the 20 yard line — pulling out gimmicks, conservatism, and outright head-scratchers. That’s how to drop a three-touchdown lead to Alabama at home, people.

4. Hugh Freeze was undone by his predecessor, Houston Nutt. Hugh and Houston. Houston and Hugh. Together, forever, inextricably tangled in the viper pit of north-central Mississippi. Houston, who’s suing the University of Mississippi and whose attorney coughed up Freeze’s university-issued cell phone records. The cell phone records that would spell his doom. Pile on the irony that Nutt’s tenure at Arkansas was undone by cell phone malfeasance, only to be hired by Ole Miss, only to be fired four years later, only to be succeeded by Hugh Freeze, whom he essentially got shitcanned in late July of 2017. So it goes.

5. Hugh Freeze could recruit. Well, Hugh Freeze, with the help of non-compliant assistants and boosters and enticements, could recruit. He nabbed Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, and Laquon Treadwell all in the same class. As their respective stars ascended, so did Freeze’s. They all went in the first round. Nkemdiche believed he could fly. Tunsil found other means of reaching the same altitude. Brother Denzel Nkemdiche became the court jester. Treadwell just freaking worked. But those were Hugh Freeze guys. They could have — should have — gone elsewhere, won a title or two, at least played in Atlanta for an SEC championship, but they didn’t. Ole Miss should have done better by them.

6. Hugh Freeze was arrogant. He dared the recruiting internet to send evidence of compliance violations to Ole Miss’ athletics department. He retracted the tweet. He continually began each day with inspirational religiosity, notwithstanding his sundry phone calls to a Tampa escort service. He dodged and weaved through media questions in Birmingham about that damn NCAA investigation. He stood by — with the full support of his chancellor and athletics director — while assistants provided impermissible benefits to players. He happily coached Laremy Tunsil who drove to practice in a free loaner car. Sure.

7. Hugh Freeze hit his ceiling. Probably the 2014 and 2015 seasons were the best he could muster. Who knows what could have been in 2016. A 5-7 record speaks for itself, to say nothing of missing a bowl due to APR deficiency. He lost bad to Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State in perhaps the country’s most niche, strident college football rivalry. He dialed up Jason Pellerin in the red zone. He watched Chad Kelly shred his knee against Georgia Southern. He destroyed Georgia and lost to Florida. He burned Shea Patterson’s redshirt in order to wildly beat Texas A&M in College Station. He lost out after that, then lost his job.

8. Hugh Freeze made Rebel fans believe again. His joie de vivre, his jouissance, his fishing, his NASCAR buddies — all of that was perfectly Mississippi. He won games, grabbed the talent, and tweeted our daily devotionals. He provided wholesomeness in a Grisham-gothic time and place. This was not a coach but a leader and teacher and preacher of men. Those without Oxford loathed him; those within adored him. The hypocrite, they said, the phony. But we believe, cried Rebel fandom, and believe we did — until we didn’t.

9. Hugh Freeze brought Ole Miss back from the edge. Eli was long gone. The near impossible fell apart in 2003 when he tripped over his guard and spoiled a trip to Atlanta. David Cutcliffe was let go soon thereafter and Hootie Dale’s circus tent set up shop in the Grove to follow. Nutt’s tenure — if that’s really the word — was shit. He failed to beat an in-conference opponent in 2011 and was rightfully run out of town for his troubles. He didn’t hold any grudges, though — no, not at all — at least not any grudges that would snipe down his successor 10 years after the fact. What an embarrassment.

10. Hugh Freeze will not coach again. He’s far too toxic in the context of NCAA athletics to risk bringing on. He’s a magnet for scandal and outrage and internet screaming. He calls Tampa escort services on the regular. He’s audacious, but damaging. He lets his subordinates get away with too much, then waves off any responsibility for their misdoings. He gives non-answers to direct questions, hides beneath the cloak of support from his employing institution, then embarrasses that institution in perhaps the stupidest fashion possible. Would you hire him? No, you wouldn’t. And you shouldn’t. Just go away.