News broke on Thursday afternoon that Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had resigned effective immediately. Shortly after news broke, Chancellor Jeff Vitter and AD Ross Bjork met the media to address the situation.
Vitter’s opening remarks conveyed his disappointment in Freeze’s behavior, and how it does not reflect the core values of both the athletic program and the University. Despite Freeze leading the program to new heights in recent years, Vitter and Bjork could not stand by the actions of Freeze’s personal life.
“This is a sad day for the university,” Vitter said, “Coach Hugh Freeze has resigned from his position as our head football coach after confirming a pattern of personal misconduct inconsistent with the standards we expect from the leader of our football team. While coach Freeze served our University well in many regards during his tenure, we simply can’t accept the conduct in his personal life that we have discovered.”
Bjork stated that this decision was “totally unrelated to the NCAA case.” Speculation is swirling that Freeze’s resignation comes as a result of an internal investigation which uncovered calls from a work phone made to an escort service. Bjork would not confirm the report, but said that Freeze was forthcoming with the truth when the three met earlier this week about a “pattern of behavior.” The initial investigation was tied to one partial call that had not been redacted when Freeze’s phone records were turned over for a six-day period in January 2016.
“Because the call lasted less than 1 minute, we initially attributed this call to a misdialed number. As part of our core values in running the athletic program we have an obligation to do the right thing, so we proactively looked into the rest of his phone records. In our analysis, we discovered a pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectation for the leader of our football program. As of yesterday, there seemed to be a concerning pattern.”
Bjork continued, “We spoke with Coach Freeze, we discussed the entire situation. Coach Freeze was transparent, open and honest and admitted the conduct. He offered his resignation, and we accepted. He has taken responsibility and is accountable for his actions.”
Th University accepted Freeze’s resignation, but if he had not offered it, Bjork said that they would have enacted the “moral turpitude” clause in their contract and terminated Freeze.
Vitter concluded his statement before they opened it up to questions by urging fans to continue to support the University and the athletes through the fallout of Freeze’s resignation.
“I ask everyone in the Ole Miss family to pull together as we navigate this transition, our student athletes, coaches and staff will need our unwavering support in the coming months and throughout this season. Together, we will weather this storm and reach new horizons,” Vitter said.
With fall camp beginning in two weeks, offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over as interim head for the upcoming season. When asked about the potential search for a new head coach, Bjork said that there would be plenty of time to start the search. It doesn’t appear that the search will begin before the start of the 2017 season.
“The team is the focus right now,” Bjork said. “I told the staff that the number one thing, the beginning and the end is the team. I haven’t even thought about a search. We had to get a plan in place. We start practice in less than two weeks, but there will be a lot of time to conduct a search for a permanent head coach.”
With the season just 45 days away, the cloud hovering over the Ole Miss football program isn’t going away anytime soon.
The full press conference can be seen below.
For more of HottyToddy.com’s coverage, click here.
Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com.