Freeze out in the cold: Ole Miss football coach resigns

Hugh Freeze
By: 
DAVID BRANDT
The Associated Press

Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigned Thursday after university officials found a "pattern of personal misconduct" that they found unacceptable.
Freeze's resignation brings a stunning end to a five-year tenure that saw a Sugar Bowl victory, but also a wide-ranging NCAA investigation into rules violations. His ultimate downfall came after school officials investigated Freeze's phone records and found misconduct.
"In our analysis, we discovered a pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations as the leader of our football program," athletic director Ross Bjork said. "As of yesterday, there appeared to be a concerning pattern."
Bjork said the school's investigation started last week after a Freedom of Information request revealed a concerning phone call that lasted less than a minute. The school then looked into the rest of his phone records and found more problems.
Bjork said Freeze "admitted the conduct" and that the coach offered his resignation Thursday afternoon. When pressed to explain Freeze's conduct, Bjork said the school needed to "protect that information."
"His privacy is important," Bjork said. "The conduct was just not something we could continue with as our head coach."
Co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke has been chosen as the interim coach.
"This is a sad day for the University of Mississippi," Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.
Vitter and Bjork both said Freeze's resignation is strictly because of his personal conduct and not because of the ongoing NCAA investigation.
The Rebels had a quick rise under Freeze, recruiting at a high level and reaching an apex with a Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State following the 2015 season.
But an NCAA investigation — alleging 21 charges of academic, booster, and recruiting misconduct — has overshadowed much of that success, especially over the past year. The school has already self-imposed several penalties, including a one-year postseason ban for the upcoming season.
Freeze — who was making more than $5 million per year — had a 39-25 record over five seasons, including a 19-21 mark in the Southeastern Conference. Bjork said that Freeze will receive no buyout on his contract.
The 47-year-old Freeze's shocking exit — just a few weeks before preseason camp begins — completes a stunning fall for a coach considered one of the profession's rising stars a few years ago.
Freeze took over after Houston Nutt was fired during a miserable 2011 season that ended with a 2-10 record. Ole Miss immediately improved under Freeze, finishing 7-6 in 2012 and winning the Birmingham Bowl.
The Rebels continued to surge on the field and on the recruiting trail over the next several seasons. They signed some of the nation's top recruits in 2013, including defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, receiver Laquon Treadwell and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. They helped push the program to eight wins in 2013, nine in '14 and a 10-3 record in '15.

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