Hugh Freeze resigns due to “pattern of personal misconduct”

OXFORD, Miss. (WJTV) – Ole Miss announced on Thursday night that head football coach Hugh Freeze has resigned.

In a news conference later that night, Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Ross Bjork revealed “a pattern of personal misconduct” that ultimately led to Freeze resigning.

“While Coach Freeze served our university well in many regards during his tenure, we simply cannot accept the conduct in his personal life that we have discovered,” Vitter said.

Bjork stated that in response to a public records request, the university released phone calls from Freeze’s work phone for six days in January of 2016. While most of the personal calls were redacted, there was one that was not, which was brought to Bjork and Vitter’s attention last week.

Bjork said that since the call lasted less than a minute, it didn’t look like it was part of a concerning pattern, so it was initially characterized as a misdialed number. But he said he ended up digging deeper.

“As part of our core values in running the athletics program, we have an obligation to do the right thing,” Bjork said. “So we proactively looked into the rest of his phone records. In our analysis, we discovered a pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations as the leader of our football program. As of yesterday, there appeared to be a concerning pattern.”

Yahoo Sports and USA Today Sports each reported the phone number for the call in question was tied to advertisements for an escort service in Tampa, Fla.

According to Bjork, this led to he and Vitter speaking with Freeze on Wednesday night, where Bjork said Freeze admitted to the conduct. On Thursday, Freeze offered his resignation and met with his team.

“As you can imagine, those were very raw, emotional, tough meetings for our coaches and our players,” Bjork said. “There’s obviously never a good time to make this type of decision, especially with practice coming up and the season right around the corner.”

Even if Freeze had not resigned, Bjork said he would’ve been fired, exercising a termination clause for moral turpitude. Bjork added there is no buyout or settlement for Freeze.

In five seasons with the Rebels, Freeze led Ole Miss to a 39-25 record. They went 3-1 in bowl games, including a 2016 Sugar Bowl win. But a long NCAA investigation also hung over the Freeze era.

Bjork and Vitter emphasized that Freeze’s resignation has nothing to do with the NCAA case. Ole Miss self-imposed a postseason ban after the NCAA charged the program with 21 violations. Two of those charges are considered the most serious: lack of institutional control and a violation of head coaching responsibility legislation by Freeze.

As for finding Freeze’s replacement, co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke is the interim head coach, while defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has been promoted to associate head coach. Bjork said finding a permanent head coach is not on his mind right now.

“I haven’t even thought about a search,” Bjork said. “Right now, we had to get a plan in place. Right now, we start practice in less than two weeks. There’ll be a lot of time to conduct a search for a permanent head coach.”

When asked about the possibility of players transferring, Bjork said he will listen to whatever the players decide they want to do and support them.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.

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