Just 24 hours after a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt took over the college football news cycle, current Rebels coach Hugh Freeze faced reporters at SEC Media Days.
On Wednesday, Nutt filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss alleging Freeze, athletic director Ross Bjork, and sports information director Kyle Campbell spent three years misleading journalists and recruits by telling them that the majority of the school’s recent NCAA violations ocurred during Nutt’s tenure. For the most part, Freeze did not address the lawsuit or the NCAA investigation, instead offering plenty of life-coach platitudes—“mental toughness is the secret sauce”—and deflecting questions about how he felt about the case.
Freeze spoke with a group of local media members and then a trio of ESPN commentators ahead of his podium appearance. In both interviews, the 47-year-old coach lamented the fact that this marks, by his count, his fifth SEC Media day outing that has resulted in him speaking on the school’s latest scandal rather than his players, telling the ESPN table, “I want to talk about something other than all the drama that’s been going on.”
Throughout the day, Freeze declined to comment on the lawsuit past noting the timing of the case and the effect it’s had on his family. He remarked to the local media that the timing was “ironic” and added “the timing was not something I was fond of, but our team at the university will handle it and handle it the right way,” he told ESPN. He claimed he knows “very little about [the lawsuit],” but told the local gaggle that he hasn’t spoken to Nutt in years.
“I don’t think I’ve spoken to him since I’ve begged him to keep me,” he said, per the Clarion Ledger. “I did see him at a Chick-Fil-A Golf Tournament and I think a lot of Houston.”
At the podium, Freeze read from a prepared statement, telling media members he would not address any questions regarding the details of the NCAA investigation or Nutt’s lawsuit. While Freeze did not address Nutt by name or comment specifically on the lawsuit’s claims, he managed to slip in several references to the suit and the controversy surrounding it—“It’s the lot that we’ve inherited or caused in some cases”—and added that Ole Miss administrators have been “unwavering” in supporting him throughout the process.
Freeze went on to point to the fact that no Ole Miss players have departed from the program in response to the NCAA investigation as evidence that “something is right inside the walls, between the relationships we have with our coaches and our players.” When asked if the program has a contingency plan in place should the NCAA suspend him, the Rebels coach said no such plan is in place.
“We don’t think [about future suspensions]” Freeze said. “I just think today about what I could do to help these kids.”
Ole Miss is currently appealing the results of an NCAA investigation that found the school and program staff members guilty of 15 Level I recruiting violations, including a lack of institutional control charge leveled against Freeze.