Hugh Freeze’s time as head coach in Oxford is over just 44 days before Ole Miss is scheduled to begin its 2017 season.
The school made the shocking news official on Thursday evening via social media, saying Freeze — who was getting ready to enter his sixth season as coach of the Rebels — has “resigned effective immediately” and co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over in an interim capacity.
ANNOUNCEMENT | Hugh Freeze has resigned effective immediately. Matt Luke interim head coach. Press conference live at 7:30 PM CT on ESPNews.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) July 20, 2017
During the press conference held by athletic director Ross Bjork and Chancellor Jeff Vitter after Freeze’s resignation, Bjork said there will be no buyout and no settlement.
“This is a sad day for the University of Mississippi,” Vitter said.
The news, which set off a firestorm on social media, came not long after Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde reported on Thursday night that sources had info that could spell the end for Freeze’s tenure right away.
Y sources: Explosive new information has put Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze's job in immediate jeopardy. A decision should come soon.
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) July 20, 2017
That info was indeed very incendiary, centering around Freeze having communication with an escort service using his Ole Miss-issued phone.
Bjork revealed that the call was detected in the middle of last week but said “we initially attributed this call to a misdialed number.” The school “proactively looked into the rest of his phone records” and the analysis turned up a “concerning pattern.”
Had Freeze not resigned, Bjork affirmed that the school would’ve exercised the termination clause. As for finding a permanent head coach, Bjork made it clear that’s not the priority at the moment.
“I haven’t even thought about a search. It’s about the team. The team is the focus right now.”
The team will hire an assistant coach to replace Freeze on the staff.
In his five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze went 39-25 while going 3-1 in bowl games. The 47-year-old Oxford native guided the school to a 7-6 mark in his debut year after taking over a 2-10 team coached by Houston Nutt.
The Rebels showed steady improvement during the course of his first four years: 7-6 (2012), 8-5 (2013), 9-4 (2014) and 10-3 (2015).
Last season, the team went 5-7 and missed the postseason for the first time on Freeze’s watch. That dip came after notching a Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State the previous season, the program’s first Sugar Bowl victory since the Archie Manning-led 1969 squad.
That 2015 campaign also marked just the second 10-win season for the school since 1972. The Rebels were ranked as high as No. 3 in the AP Top 25 in 2014 and 2015, recording victories over Alabama in both of those seasons.
However, an NCAA investigation into the program — one that reaches all the way back to 2012 — really gained steam in January 2016, when the university received its first Notice of Allegations (NOA).
In April 2016, an investigation of the football program conducted by the NCAA and Ole Miss was re-opened after star left tackle Laremy Tunsil’s draft-night debacle.
Last February, the latest NOA contained 21 allegations against the football program. Freeze was charged with violating his responsibility legislation, and the university was charged with lack of institutional control.
However, Bjork indicated that Freeze’s call to the escort service was not related to the NCAA case.
Ole Miss is scheduled to play its season opener against South Alabama on Sept. 2.
Hugh Freeze resignation coverage from SEC Country
- Ole Miss names Matt Luke interim after Hugh Freeze resigns
- Report: Ole Miss found ‘at least one’ call from Hugh Freeze to female escort service
- What Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork and Chancellor Jeff Vitter said after Hugh Freeze’s resignation
- Internet goes nuts over shocking details of Hugh Freeze’s resignation at Ole Miss
- Ole Miss recruits react to Hugh Freeze resignation
- 6 coaches who make sense to replace Hugh Freeze as the next Ole Miss coach
- Matt Luke: 5 things to know about the new Ole Miss football coach
- Hugh Freeze resigns: Ole Miss-NCAA war was always going to end this way
- Hugh Freeze’s firing reminiscent of Bobby Petrino’s
- With Hugh Freeze stepping down, Nick Saban’s grip on the SEC West tighter than ever
- SEC Network’s Booger McFarland names 3 big-time coaches who ‘would want’ to replace Hugh Freeze
- Tommy Tuberville: Ole Miss should ‘clean the slate’ in light of Hugh Freeze’s resignation
- Famous last words: Hugh Freeze’s final thoughts on his own legacy are mind-boggling