Posted on July 21, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Ole Miss knew its football program had some issues. Is Hugh Freeze responsible for them? To a degree—yes. He and every other head coach can deny it as much as they want. But when things happen that shouldn’t, the head coach knows. He may not be directly responsible, but he is aware of what happens.
Could Hugh Freeze have lost his job due to the NCAA violations the Ole Miss program is facing? If he was going to, it probably would have happened already. But the school knows the best way to get past a self-imposed bowl ban and scholarship restrictions is to have strong leadership.
The right leader can convince the best players in high school to come to his team. He can will the team to win. But if he is spending time with a local escort service?
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He’s not the right leader and he has to go.
As of Thursday night, and with a little over five weeks until the 2017 season kicks off, the Ole Miss football program has a new head coach. After five good years, Hugh Freeze is out. The school allowed him to resign but said he would have been fired if he hadn’t quit.
It appears that Freeze was dumb enough to use a cell phone provided to him by the University to call a local escort service. The number had been brought up as part of a lawsuit between Houston Nutt and the University. Freeze said it was a misdial, but when a pattern of calls was discovered, the University decided it was time for a change.
“While Coach Freeze served our university well in many regards during his tenure, we simply cannot accept the conduct in his personal life that we have discovered,” Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said at a press conference Thursday night (ESPN).
Changing head coaches this close to the start of the season is not ideal, but if you are going to lose someone, the head coach will be missed the least. Yes, he provides the vision and the direction of the program, but the assistant coaches are the ones that implement it.
This is probably why the team went ahead and named Matt Luke, the team’s offensive coordinator for the last five seasons, the interim head coach.
For this year at least, with the longtime offensive coordinator now in charge, the team should be fine. Luke will probably not change anything going forward. He likely lean on the defensive coordinator to take care of that side of the ball. Luke could promote someone to offensive coordinator. But at this point in the year, it wouldn’t be shocking if he took care of the offensive himself.
This year, the Rebels stand to have a very good offense. Quarterback Shea Patterson was impressive after taking over for Chad Kelly last season. He’ll have a talented group of receivers to work with as well in A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and Van Jefferson. Running back Eric Swinney had one carry for six yards last year but he is a former four-star recruit. If he can live up to the hype, the Ole Miss offense should be fun to watch.
As long as the defense can do its part, Ole Miss should be in good shape this season. Beyond this season, things get a bit murky.
Until the interim tag is taken off Luke or someone else is hired, Ole Miss might as well forget about recruiting. It was already going to be tough with the threat of sanctions looming. But the coaching staff is going to have trouble convincing high school scout team members to come to Ole Miss.
Until a permanent replacement is found, there will simply be too much instability.
As far as Vegas is concerned, Luke is the favorite (for now) at +250 followed by Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson (+300), Les Miles (+450), Chip Kelly (+850). Greg Schiano (+1500), and Mack Brown (+2000).
But Ole Miss is generally not looked upon as the kind of job high-profile coaches are looking for; it’s not a ‘destination’ job.
So—it looks like the job could be Luke’s to lose. All he has to do is win.