It’d be an awfully sick thing if Hugh Freeze coached in the SEC in 2018
There’s nothing wrong with forgiveness.
Nobody is perfect, and for everyone, forgiveness is what allows us to overcome our mistakes. We all get second, third, fourth and fifth chances to become better human beings. If we didn’t, I’d still be in timeout for that time I pushed a classmate in my kindergarten gym class (he pushed me first, though). Thankfully, I was able to overcome that and continue my education.
Hugh Freeze’s plea for forgiveness is a bit more extreme than my example. The former Ole Miss coach is hoping that someone was willing to forgive the mistakes he made in Oxford and give him another coaching job in college football. Freeze has reached out to at least one media outlet and asked for “help pointing out the positives.” The positives, Freeze hopes, will add to the case of why a team should forgive and hire him.
But this shouldn’t really be about forgiveness.
Freeze didn’t wrong any of the prospective programs that could hire him to their coaching staff. He wronged the current and future Ole Miss players and coaches who will have scholarship and postseason restrictions in 2018 and beyond.
Giving Freeze the opportunity to coach for an SEC team playing for a postseason berth in 2018 would be another wrong.
For the sake of this argument, let’s actually forgive Freeze for his “pattern of misconduct” that ultimately ended his tenure at Ole Miss. Nobody is condoning calling an escort service with a school-issued cell phone, but that wasn’t the reason the Rebels were handed NCAA sanctions.
Ole Miss’ 15 Level-1 violations were the result of Freeze lying in a different way. Not only did Freeze run a program that provided impermissible benefits to players, he and his staff lied to recruits about the Rebels’ pending NCAA punishment by saying it was dirty laundry from the Houston Nutt era. That’s the real issue here.
When the Rebels were handed their NCAA punishment on Dec. 1, Freeze got a favorable draw. Well, it was at least more favorable than the program he sank. The NCAA gave Freeze a 2-game suspension IF he got another job as a head coach. If he were to take a job as a coordinator for the 2018 season, he wouldn’t face that punishment.
That, my friends, is big-time college athletics at its worst.
A few days after it was reported that Freeze would essentially be a free man if hired as an assistant, multiple SEC schools were reportedly interested in hiring him. Of course a school like Tennessee would want Freeze. After all, how many people on planet earth beat Nick Saban’s Alabama teams in consecutive years? Two. Freeze and Les Miles. (Miles is still available, guys!)
Why wouldn’t a program like South Carolina, which has a window to win with an extremely talented quarterback in Jake Bentley, be willing to roll the dice on an offensive mind like Freeze? It’s not like he’d be the face of the program. He could instead be the face of an offensive revival in Columbia.
South Carolina could be firing on all cylinders and potentially playing for a bowl berth when that Nov. 3 showdown with Ole Miss rolls around. Freeze could be trying to scheme the Gamecocks’ way into the postseason while the team he got a multi-year bowl ban for plays for … pride? Sure, that seems fair.
While the chances of that happening are slim, can you imagine what that atmosphere would be like if Freeze stepped foot in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium? Call me crazy, but I doubt you’d see a whole lot of forgiveness in Oxford that night.
Forgiveness is accepting that someone made a mistake and allowing them to make up for it. But “allowing them to make up for it” doesn’t mean that person deserves the opportunity to be given an extremely coveted job again. That’s tolerance. Any school that’s willing to hire Freeze in 2018 while Ole Miss is banned from the postseason is tolerating the fact that the program he ran lied and cheated. If Freeze wasn’t a superior offensive mind, nobody would tolerate that.
According to Freeze, he’s suffered enough. That’s why he’s so desperate to get back into the coaching game and go anywhere it will take him. Meanwhile, kids he recruited and lied to like Shea Patterson have to petition the NCAA just so they don’t have to sit out a year after escaping Freeze-fueled punishments at Ole Miss.
Yeah, that’s a flawed system.
It’s not even just the 2018 scenario that’s flawed. The Rebels have enough talent next year that they probably won’t take a major step back. The loss of scholarships will likely be felt more in 2019 and 2020, especially if Mississippi State is able to keep its head above water with Joe Moorhead. In the nation’s toughest division, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for Ole Miss in the immediate future.
But there is for Freeze. All it’ll take is one school. They’ll tolerate some negative press from people like me, who think that Freeze’s year away from football isn’t a stiff enough punishment. And if you recall, Freeze wasn’t technically fired for the lying and cheating he did at Ole Miss. He resigned after the escort service scandal broke.
Freeze spent the football season working to get forgiveness from the loved ones he wronged. He got more time to work on his marriage and his faith. Still, though, Freeze said that getting through Saturdays was the most difficult thing. He said he almost went into “depressed mode” and that he has to fight and pray to get through that.
Next year, Freeze’s former team will grind its way through each Saturday knowing that the NCAA won’t hand out any awards even if they go 12-0 and average 50 points per game. The Ole Miss coaching staff will have to fight through countless conversations about the program’s limitations on recruiting visits. Rebels fans will count down the Saturdays until their team can escape the cloud that Freeze and his staff put over it.
And Freeze wants us in the media to point out the positives? OK, I’ve got one for him.
At least no SEC program was tolerant enough to give him a head coaching job.