23 July, 2017
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze resigned after the school discovered what it called a "pattern of personal misconduct" on Thursday, and former Auburn and Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville said he thinks the next step is to hit the reset button for the entire athletic department.
Bjork said if that the information they had uncovered had been public, the reason for the decision would be clear, acknowledging that if Freeze had not resigned the school would have "exercised the termination clause in the contract for moral turpitude". "As of (Wednesday), there appeared to be a concerning pattern".
"We proactively looked into the rest of his phone records and found a concerning pattern", Bjork said. But he also carried shrouds of controversy, culminating with his resignation Thursday night after revelations of phone records that included calls to a number associated with a female escort service. When pressed to explain Freeze's conduct, Bjork said the school needed to "protect that information".
"He has taken responsibility and is accountable to his actions", Bjork said. "There will be a lot of time to conduct a search for a permanent head coach". In response, Freeze said the allegations were not true and that the call was "a wrong number".
Ole Miss opens the season on September 2 against South Alabama, the team that opened 2016 by beating Mississippi State.
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Freeze posted a 39-25 record (including a 19-21 conference mark) during his five years in Oxford, guiding the Rebels to back-to-back Top Twenty seasons in 2014 and 2015.
His brother, Tom, was a quarterback at the school from 1989-91 and now has a role as assistant athletics director for player development on Ole Miss' staff. One of the most damning allegations was the charge against Freeze for "lack of institutional control", a charge that the University was challenging in full. Ole Miss is also still under investigation by the NCAA for alleged rules violations and the school handed down a self-imposed bowl ban for the upcoming season.
This is a conversation I've had a couple of times since Freeze was hired before the 2012 season. Instead, nowadays, when folks hear about the Ole Miss Rebels it's usually in association with some sort of scandal or NCAA investigation. Their last two coaches, Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze had their reigns end in ugly fashion. Ole Miss will still have its day in front of the Committee on Infractions, but it now faces a new challenge as the ground under its feet continues to shift.
I know that pressure and temptation in the job are real. Before taking Ole Miss off the board, the team was listed at 66/1 to win the SEC and tagged with a season Over/Under win total at 5.5.