In his first media availability since the drama that took over the first round of the NFL Draft last Thursday, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the school has “made a lot of progress” in its investigation regarding alleged text messages between former offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and assistant athletics director for football operations John Miller.
“We’ve obviously, since draft night, had some adversity around our place,” Freeze said on the SEC teleconference Thursday. “I wanted to address that I know our administration has been aggressively working to reach a resolution on the matters involving Laremy.
“I’ve been told that we’ve made a lot of progress, but the facts are always more important than speed or our public response, which is difficult for me sometimes because I want to respond. But our administration will continue to work with all the parties to get the answers and reach a conclusion as soon as possible, which we’re hopeful that’s coming quickly.”
Of course, Tunsil’s dramatic draft night, which also included a video of him smoking out of a bong attached to a gas mask being posted to this Twitter account, caused quite the stir on social media and left many wondering what would be made of Ole Miss’ on-going NCAA matter.
The school is set to respond in late May to the Notice of Allegations it received in February, but that process could be halted if the NCAA elects to reopen the investigation against the Rebels.
“I think it depends on what the facts reveal,” Freeze said. “We haven’t even discussed the next step. You gather the facts first and then you’ll know a lot more after that of what they are.”
Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that the money Tunsil asked Miller for in the alleged text messages could be a part of the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund, which “is intended to provide direct benefits to student-athletes or their families as determined by conference offices. As a guiding principal the fund shall be used to assist student-athletes in meeting financial needs that arise in conjunction with participation in intercollegiate athletics,” according to the NCAA manual.
There’s also been scuttlebutt regarding the newsworthiness of the alleged text messages to people at Ole Miss and the NCAA.
The ongoing NCAA investigation, which includes football, women’s basketball and track and field, is in its fourth year, and it’s certainly conceivable that both Ole Miss and the NCAA were well aware of the text messages before they were released to the public Thursday night. However, Freeze did say he was not aware of the messages prior to the draft.
“I know nothing,” Freeze said. “I’m not involved in the fact-finding process. I am confident. I was shocked like everyone else living it in real time, but I’m confident that our administration is going to find the facts and then give us a good report on it.”
Since the dramatic night, Ole Miss has been the butt of numerous jokes on social media, television and radio shows, but throughout the process, the school has remained silent outside of a brief statement made last Thursday that it was investigating the allegations.
“I’ll be very quick to defend us when it’s something we know the facts on,” Freeze said. “I don’t at the present time. I know our administration is working, and I’m told they’ve made a lot of progress, but they’re collecting everything to make sure they know exactly what the facts are before we run out and make any type of response.
“I’m trying to be patient. That’s difficult for me sometimes because you want to respond, but there’s great wisdom in being patient and making sure you get the response, and we’re still in that process.”