Amid NCAA mess and a new lawsuit, Hugh Freeze talks about his long snapper
HOOVER, Ala. — Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said almost 2,800 words before taking a question during his press conference Thursday. While he had much to say, his comments lacked anything resembling substance. His rambling opening filibuster felt much more like a sermon than a press conference, as he spoke about the adversity facing his program and the lessons it had taught him as a father and as a man.
Freeze discussed topics such as the program’s improved academic status and how working with Navy SEALs will help the Rebels handle rough waters. He seemingly listed every member of his coaching staff and broke down his depth chart position by position. He even went into detail on the team’s ongoing competition at long-snapper and the backup punter duties.
His opening address was the last of SEC Media Days and by far the longest of the week. Credit him for coming in with a game-plan, however ineffective it might have been. It certainly was odd and out of character, a coach known for high-scoring, exciting offense seemingly trying to milk the clock from the opening whistle.
When he finally wrapped up his nearly 3,000-word opening statement and began taking questions, the first directed at Freeze was about the recently-filed lawsuit by his predecessor, Houston Nutt.
For all the words Freeze had to share with the SEC’s media, he had only 19 words to say about the lawsuit. (He spent 65 words talking about special teams though.)
“I would absolutely love to share my opinion on it. Unfortunately it’s a legal case, and I can’t comment,” Freeze answered.
That was all Freeze had to say when it came to the latest allegation against his program, though earlier Thursday he said the timing of Nutt’s lawsuit was “ironic.”
The most interesting moment of Freeze’s opening statement, and perhaps the only genuine segment of the entire affair, came early in his speech, which many mocked as a filibuster worthy of Washington. The leader of the downtrodden Rebels program expressed his sorrow that he has to continue to defend himself and the actions of his program, instead of discussing his players’ most outstanding qualities.
“Seems like every year that I’ve stood here, with the exception of my first, that there’s other things that I have to talk about other than our kids. That’s the least likely thing that I enjoy doing,” Freeze said. “I do not enjoy not giving our kids what I believe they deserve.”
The most poignant question was the last one he faced in the main ballroom. While Freeze probably would prefer to talk more about his players and less about the drama and NCAA investigation, he was asked who is most to blame?
“Well, I mean, we obviously have created it in and around our program,” Freeze said. “We’ve got to be responsible for the areas in which we were deficient in, that we didn’t — that we didn’t either react or act properly, or whether it was staff or whether it was boosters.
“So we have to own that. And me being in the position I am, I’ve got to stand and look people in the eyes and take that. And, you know, I have been doing it for several years now, and I’ll certainly be glad and rejoice and thank God when it’s over, but in the meantime, I’ve been charged with leading us through this time. And so I’ve got to look at myself, our staff, our boosters, our people and our players and try the best I can to manage that while we go through it.”
In the end, if Freeze is forced to leave his position at Ole Miss before his time of choosing, he won’t have anyone but himself to blame. While a filibuster may work against the assembled media in Hoover, that tactic won’t get him very far in a courtroom or against the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.