I Hate You, John Crist: Hugh Freeze-free version of reader comments to lighten the mood
Let’s face it: The explosive story out of Ole Miss that led to the sudden exit of Hugh Freeze has sucked the air out of the room.
Fall camp is now underway at several SEC schools, but the topic that continues to dominate headlines is Freeze and his stunning departure from the Rebels. Interim coach Matt Luke has been tossed a grenade with the pin already pulled.
The rise of Mississippi — a middle-of-the-pack team in this league for decades before Freeze came along in 2012 and started reeling in 5-star signees — has been fun to watch in recent years, with back-to-back upsets of Alabama for the first time in history helping to shine a light on Oxford as one of the true bucket-list road trips in all of college football.
But an ugly story is turning uglier by the day, and it might not be at its ugliest until the new early signing period in December and then National Signing Day in February. The Rebs can’t get their hands on a 4-star kid right now, let alone another 5-star stud.
Here are some of my favorite reader comments from this past week. The Freeze narrative is unavoidable, but let’s try to get our heads out of the gutter for a little while.
Personally, I don’t see why Les Miles would ever want to coach again. With the money he’s made already, certainly he’ll never need another paycheck in his bank account.
Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear he’s taking a TV gig for the simple reason that nobody will hire him to patrol their sideline. I agree with you and believe he’d be great in a booth somewhere, but he doesn’t seem overly enthused about the idea.
Some guys are coaching lifers, though. Bear Bryant passed away almost immediately after his career ended. Same for Joe Paterno, although he clearly had other stresses in his life that may have contributed to his demise. But Miles played at Michigan for Bo Schembechler, who didn’t coach another game after the age of 60.
As I wrote earlier this week, if Miles were indeed a viable candidate for a Power 5 program, then he probably would’ve landed one. He was linked to the openings at Baylor, Houston, Minnesota and Purdue, yet he didn’t come close to getting any of them.
But coaching has increasingly become a young man’s game. The average age of the four guys who secured those jobs is 40.5.
And why would Miles want the Ole Miss gig anyway? His best asset in Baton Rouge was his ability to sign 4- and 5-star talent. Believe me, recruiting for the Rebels isn’t going well these days. Miles’s presence wouldn’t help matters much, either.
Right now, his reputation has been trampled a bit. Miles isn’t remembered enough as the goofy gambler who won a national championship with the Tigers in 2007. The memories are still too fresh of his offense being stuck in the mud year after year against Alabama. Let those wounds heal a little, and he’ll develop into a living legend.
It doesn’t make any sense for Miles to be the head coach at Mississippi, and it makes even less sense for the Rebs to hire him. The best they can hope for at this point is riding it out with Luke and seeing what happens with the NCAA.
Once the NCAA is done in Oxford, perhaps Ole Miss can be a destination job again one day. As for Miles, his time for being atop anyone’s list has likely come and gone.
Miles isn’t going to be the head coach at Ole Miss. Luke is, at least on an interim basis, and this will be his first time in the spotlight.
Up until last week, you’d have to be a pretty hardcore SEC type to have ever even heard Luke’s name before. No doubt, ardent supporters of the Rebels could’ve listed the entire coaching staff off the top of their heads, but he didn’t have much stature outside of Oxford.
Luke reportedly turned down a pretty hefty offer from Will Muschamp to leave Mississippi for South Carolina, but that was for a lateral move as offensive line coach. He hasn’t even been a coordinator at this point of his career. Sure, he was a co-OC with the Rebs and at Duke prior to that, but he’s never been a playcaller at any level.
Now he’s in charge of everything, so he’s jumping up the coaching ladder a few rungs here. Even if Luke already has his self-proclaimed dream job at the age of 40, the circumstances in which he got it are less than ideal, to say the least.
It’s hard to predict what to expect from Ole Miss. Maybe the Rebels rally to 8-4. More probable, however, is crumbling to 4-8.
That being said, the more we hear about Luke, the more we like him. His opening statement at his introductory press conference was passionate, emotional and, best of all, honest. The-man-who-shall-not-be-named is short on honesty these days.
Still, by the time he moved on to the Q&A, Luke’s inexperience started to show. It was one cliché after another, with very little as to know he actually plans to help this program rise from the ashes. And remember, the NCAA hasn’t even finished turning up the heat yet. We still don’t know just how bad of a hand he’ll have to play here.
Do I think he’s the next Dabo Swinney, who went from interim coach to national champion at Clemson? Surely not. But is he the next John L. Smith, who couldn’t rescue Arkansas from the Bobby Petrino saga? Let’s hope he isn’t.
Luke bleeds cardinal red and navy blue. He’ll give it everything he has, no question about it. Will that be enough? The odds are stacked against him, to be sure.
Keep in mind I haven’t spent a ton of time in the state of Mississippi. Most of what I know about both Oxford and Starkville up until now is second-hand information.
More often than not, Ole Miss is celebrated for having one of the premier college towns in America. When football fans from all over the country are asked about primo tailgating, what the Rebels have going on at The Grove tends to get mentioned quickly.
That’s simply not the situation at Mississippi State. As mentioned in the reader comment above, the Bulldogs are best known for the thousands of cowbells rattling from the stands of Davis Wade Stadium seemingly after every play. The only time I recall such a thing from my own experience as an athlete was during little league baseball.
Are the cowbells charming and unique to the “Hail State!” crowd? Absolutely. But are they also childish and annoying to the uninitiated? Absolutely. They’re one step above Thundersticks in basketball and one step below vuvuzelas in soccer.
Don’t get me wrong. You be you, MSU fans. But calling Starkville a cow town when the locals are constantly ringing cowbells isn’t a stretch.
It’s a statistical fact that the average resident in Oxford makes more money and is more likely to live above the poverty line than one 100 miles away in Starkville. Additionally, Ole Miss has approximately 15 percent more students than Mississippi State and an endowment 30 percent bigger or so.
But all that aside, by no means am I suggesting Starkville isn’t a terrific place. It just isn’t spoken of in the same way — certainly not outside the Magnolia State — as Oxford. When I was at Media Days two weeks ago, I asked many colleagues what their favorite cities are when on assignment in the SEC. Oxford was mentioned several times.
I heard a lot of Knoxville. I heard a lot of Baton Rouge, too. Not once did I hear Starkville. Don’t shoot the messenger, Bulldog backers. All I did was pose the question to people who would know. I’m only sharing their responses here.
But what do I know? As a Florida State graduate, I have a soft spot for Tallahassee. It may not compare to Oxford, but it’s sure better than that dump Gainesville.