Thursday, May 19, 2022

Guest Column: Steve Vassallo On Ole Miss/NCAA Situation "An Absence of Malice"


Steve Vassallo

NOTE TO READERS: The following piece is a guest column of Steve Vassallo of Oxford, a frequent contributor to
The blame game and finger-pointing are alive and well this weekend in Oxford, Mississippi. Driving across the Yalobusha River yesterday on I-55, my phone was lit up similar to election night back in November. While listening to the varied criticisms from a diverse group of alums and fans, my mind drifted back to a more steady era of one John Howard Vaught. To borrow a line from Simon & Garfunkel and to paraphrase slightly,
“Where have you gone Johnny Vaught, a troubled Ole Miss nation turns its lonely eyes to you?”
Before I summarize the many reactions from Ole Miss friends and supporters, I would like to offer my humble opinion for what it’s worth. After having read Dan Wolken’s column yesterday in USA TODAY, it’s hard to envision how Coach Freeze can survive this onslaught. I have been a huge “Freeze fan” for several years, and following his blowout win in the 2016 Sugar Bowl, I was hooked. Having attended the 1970 Sugar Bowl victory, I was beginning to think I would not live long enough to witness another. If I could sit down right now with our Head Coach, here is what I would recommend to him.
Coach, please voluntarily suspend yourself for one year without compensation while all of this plays out. I firmly believe that you did nothing intentionally wrong and you will be vindicated in the end. By taking this action, you will become an instant hero to those Ole Miss fans currently out for blood. I am old enough to remember how Watergate played out, and the fact RM Nixon was occupying the White House in the midst of that storm only prolonged the agony and animosity with the media and critics. I realize that the President was guilty of serious bad judgment, unlike yourself in my view.
To now summarize the reactions I’m hearing, criticism is being levied at our Head Coach, our AD and most frequently at the NCAA. How we have handled the entire process and NCAA review is generating more Monday morning quarterbacking on a Friday than I can ever recall. The Ole Miss fan base is generally either angry or concerned (at a minimum) with season ticket sales at the highest risk. To allow this investigation to consume the majority of 2017 in light of what we already know is unwise.
It’s time to take a more proactive approach than simply circling the wagons. The 20-minute video is not going to stop the bleeding, only enlarge the wound. “What’s that you say Mrs. Robinson, Johnny V has left and gone away….hey, hey, hey….hey, hey hey.”

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at or call him at 985-852-7745.
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