Hugh Freeze aftermath: Where does Ole Miss go from here?
Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty, Flim Flam, what a sham.
Was the wool pulled over the eyes of Ole Miss fans? Maybe. Have they been the victim of hypocrisy? Maybe.
But we are all hypocrites. Me, you, you and you.
We don’t know all of what former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze did to warrant his dismissal. We do know that in a society that loves to bring people down, it has had even more fun when the subject is outspoken about his faith.
But that story and those stones have been thrown.
Friday begins the aftermath, the recovery, the answering of the key question: Where does Ole Miss go from here?
The circumstances surrounding Freeze’s removal were a lashing to a fanbase running through a myriad emotions. Rival Mississippi State players piled on. College football fans across the country piled on. They piled on Freeze, but they are piling on a fanbase in a state of confusion.
The roller coaster from a Sugar Bowl win to a wildfire of an NCAA investigation has been tumultuous. These latest reports have turned an unreal situation into an unbelievable soap opera.
Fans who remained behind Freeze are torn between uplifting a man down and trying to figure out what will happen with their second religion: football.
Fans happy to see Freeze go probably blame him for the NCAA mess in the first place, but his departure only leads them back to their school being on a bowl ban and much more serious probation possibly to be announced during the season.
It is a state of confusion in Oxford.
No one could have predicted a lawsuit by former coach Houston Nutt would help discover Freeze’s calls to an escort service that ultimately led to his dismissal. It happened so fast, so shockingly, it was a 180-degree jolt considering how the university had so steadfastly stood behind its embattled coach.
Under Freeze, Ole Miss has been close. If Laquon Treadwell doesn’t break his leg scoring against Auburn, the Rebels might have played in Atlanta and stayed in contention for a Playoff spot.
Same could be said for the inexplicable fourth-down conversion Arkansas had a year later that dashed the Rebels’ Playoff hopes.
Just when you thought that was the most Ole Miss thing ever, this happens.
The other most Ole Miss thing ever would be the Rebels going 12-0 this season with no bowl to celebrate.
Ole Miss fans are accustomed to small pieces of success but missing the big party. Fans are tired of being known as the school who wins the party in The Grove. They want to win an actual football party.
Many thought they were close until the NCAA came to town.
With this latest storm, they don’t know what to feel. Some feel deceived. Some feel misled. The overall feeling is a huge swirl of confusion.
The sun rose Friday and offensive line coach Matt Luke is the interim head coach. That is where the attention now must turn. It has to turn his way.
Ole Miss has to dig out of the ditch it dug for itself — and Freeze, no matter what he has done, wasn’t alone in making the bed the Rebels now lie in.
The Rebels, quickly becoming a very accurate nickname, and their fans are fortunate to have a loved alum with the interim tag. No one will work as hard as he will to restore pride and dignity to the university.
Luke and his staff have the responsibility of not only starting practice in less than two weeks. They have the responsibility to keep commits in the fold and bowl ban or not, to win.
One bit of potential good news: Shea Patterson’s father, Sean, told the Clarion-Ledger that his son remains a Rebel.
“As we see today, the sun comes up, fortunately. He just wakes up and it becomes more of a challenge,” Sean Patterson told the paper. “He loves Matt Luke, just like he loves coach Freeze. Matt is a guy that needs the help and it’s going to be his first opportunity and Shea is going to be the guy that needs to help him.
“He still loves the university and he loves the fans. … Unless there’s some sort of mass exodus or some crazy thing, he’s a Rebel. That’s hopefully what his legacy is … that he and his teammates helped keep things rolling when things were really tight.”
Winning is the cure-all and it is the only thing that will keep butts in the seats. The fans are confused. They’ve been rocked.
Nutt’s intentions were to win. Freeze’s intentions were to win. Separately they harmed Ole Miss in completely different ways.
It is now a new day and a new start and Luke has the responsibility of fixing problems he did not cause.
Ole Miss will have to answer to the NCAA again soon, but Luke and the football program ultimately have to answer to the fans.
What a confused bunch they are today.