Hugh Freeze is ready to coach again; NCAA does little to stand in his way

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Lauren Wood, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP

Hugh Freeze speaks to Ole Miss alumni gathered during the Rebel Roadshow as Chancellor Jeff Vitter, left, and Athletic Director Ross Bjork, right, sit nearby, April 26, 2017, in Tupelo,

Hugh Freeze, in a statement released through his attorney Friday, makes it clear he wants to coach college football game again as soon as possible.

And, he said, the NCAA’s findings in its investigation of Ole Miss football make it possible for him to coach again as soon as next season.

“The NCAA did not impose a show-cause penalty on Freeze, as it did two former Ole Miss assistant coaches. Freeze would have to serve a two-conference games suspension if he were hired to be a head coach before the 2018 season.

“This restriction ends on November 30, 2018, and would not affect my ability as a head coach to recruit prospective student athletes; to participate in pre-season coaching activities, including spring or fall practice; or to coach any non-conference games,” Freeze said. “While my hope is to be a head coach again as soon as possible, this restriction does not limit, in any way, my ability to serve as an assistant coach.”

Freeze’s entire statement, released by the law firm of Forman Watkins & Klutz:

This morning, the Committee on Infractions provided finality to a long process of investigating my program, my coaching staff, and my own actions. While I am disappointed that the COI found that I violated the NCAA’s head coach responsibility bylaw in any way, I am relieved to have a final decision. In order to move forward with my career, I accept the single restriction imposed by the COI and will not appeal the decision.

The COI expressly agreed that I “promoted an atmosphere of compliance and expected [my] staff to abide by the rules.” They described my compliance efforts as “admirable” and acknowledged “the many initiatives [I] took in an attempt to ensure rules compliance among [my] staff.” I am very pleased that the COI listened to what I had to say and affirmed my efforts at promoting rules compliance.

While I appreciate the COI’s recognition of my compliance efforts, I am disappointed that the COI found that, in some instances, I failed to monitor my staff appropriately. I believe I made every effort to do so. Yet, I am encouraged that the COI found the failure to monitor was a mitigated violation based on, among other things, my personal record of compliance with NCAA rules.

Specifically, the COI imposed a head coach restriction that would require me to serve a two conference-game suspension if I am hired as a head coach for the 2018 football season. This restriction ends on November 30, 2018, and would not affect my ability as a head coach to recruit prospective student athletes; to participate in pre-season coaching activities, including spring or fall practice; or to coach any non-conference games. While my hope is to be a head coach again as soon as possible, this restriction does not limit, in any way, my ability to serve as an assistant coach.

I want to thank everyone who stood by me, including my family, my friends, and the University of Mississippi. I look forward to returning to the job that I love, working with student athletes once again, and applying the valuable lessons that I learned during this long process.

Freeze had 39-25 record in five seasons at Ole Miss and guided the Rebels to four straight bowl games over his first four seasons, including a 10-win season and a Sugar Bowl berth in 2015. He resigned abruptly on July 20, after Chancellor Jeff Vitter and Athletic Director Ross Bjork indicated he violated the morals clause of his contract.