Yeah, probably a good idea.
If you’re Ross Bjork, when you next deal with NCAA investigators, exactly how do you go about defending the propriety of a man whom you were prepared to can by invoking “the termination clause in our contract for moral turpitude” had he not resigned first?
That’s one helluva needle to thread, brother.
UPDATE: I guess Bjork can try to start with this.
UPDATE #2: This is an even better short take than mine.
Even Thursday, Bjork tried to explain what had happened and why you heard him defending Freeze’s record of NCAA compliance. Ole Miss made the decision to tie its fate to Freeze’s years ago, and that has not changed one little bit.
They’re going to have to go in front of the Committee on Infractions and, for the sake of the university, argue that former staffer Barney Farrar was a renegade, but the guy whose personal life was deceitful and a sham acted honorably professionally. Good luck with that.
As stunned as I was by the cosmically ironic revelation that Houston Nutt was able to wield the same instrument of his downfall at Arkansas to bring down Hugh Freeze, Freeze’s hubris is almost as stunning to me.
USA Today reported Thursday that Freeze made a one-minute call from a university-issued phone to a number associated with a female escort service. The number was found during discovery related to former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt’s civil lawsuit against Ole Miss and Freeze, which was filed in federal court last week.
Bjork said six days of Freeze’s phone records from early January 2016 were turned over to Nutt’s attorney, and Freeze was allowed to redact personal phone calls before the records were released. Freeze failed to redact the 313 area code number in question, according to Bjork.
ESPN asked Freeze about the alleged phone call last week, and he denied purposely calling an escort service.
“We call the wrong numbers all the time,” Freeze said.
According to emails obtained by USA Today, Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, sent an email to Ole Miss general counsel Lee Tyner, which referenced a “phone call Coach Freeze made that would be highly embarrassing for all of you and extremely difficult to explain.”
… At SEC media days, Freeze chose not to comment on Nutt but said that he was “disappointed by the timing of it” coming one day before he and his players arrived in Hoover, Alabama, for the event.
“This is the fifth year in a row I’ve been here and I can’t talk about our players,” Freeze said, wanting to turn the focus away from off-field issues. Freeze said he took responsibility for the ongoing NCAA investigation into the program, pointing out how the school self-imposed scholarship limitations and a bowl ban.
“It’s a lot we inherited and caused in some cases,” Freeze said, alluding to the previous coaching staff. [Emphasis added.]
To recap, then, the NCAA’s been shining a flashlight up your ass for more than a year, you tried to throw the Nuttster under the bus to deflect attention from your own actions, you wouldn’t back down when he asked for an apology, you received a pointed warning from Nutt’s attorney about your own behavior… and your response is to double down on Houston Nutt at SEC Media Days.
Remind me again why these guys think they’re so smart.
Shorter Tom Luginbill: Mark Richt’s failure to sign Carl Lawson or Raekwon McMillan proves that Kirby Smart is overrated.
When it comes to health issues, I don’t wish ill on any student-athlete, but in light of Georgia’s schedule, I thought I’d mention a couple of key hits.
- Notre Dame appears to be facing some depth issues on its defensive line. As the start of fall camp approaches, five of its eight defensive tackles have never played in a game.
- Meanwhile, Florida lost a starting safety who recorded 73 tackles last season with a blown Achilles tendon. Add to that a junior defensive back who announced his transfer from Florida yesterday, and it sounds like there are some experience issues brewing for the Gator defensive backfield.
No, those don’t translate into automatic wins for Georgia, but for once it’s news like this coming from other camps, instead of Athens.
This is too fucking rich.
Nick Saban cannot contain himself. Such is the case when an issue impacts his ability to coach football at the highest level.
It’s been seven months since Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipped their bowl games, but their actions have created one of the hottest topics of the offseason.
What if, Saban wonders, ducking out for the pros before a bowl game becomes a college trend? Or worse …
“Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season,” Saban told CBS Sports. “It will take a few years, then some kid will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame. I’m not playing my senior year.’
“Then the high school coach will go nuts.”
That Nick Saban. So selfless. Never thinking of himself.
The apple, it seems, doesn’t fall that far from the tree, either.
“It’s a major negative to me because it takes away from the team aspect of the sport,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “… Are we going to get to a point where someone commits to a college and says, ‘I don’t want to play my [high school] senior year for fear of injury?'”
Coaches like Saban and Smart can jump ship any time they’d like, without repercussion (other than a pesky buyout clause, maybe). Indeed, Saban is on his fifth head coaching gig and nobody’s playing the “taking away from the team aspect of the sport” card on his ass. But a player daring to take his career considerations into his own hands? That’s death.
Even Smart detects a whiff of hypocrisy there.
“I definitely sympathize and see both sides of it,” Smart said. “I don’t want to sound like the selfish coach that only thinks of himself. Also, think of the purity of the game. You’re playing for more than the coach. You’re playing for a team, a university.”
Okay, only a faint whiff.
There aren’t many times when a player has control over his career. A stud finishing his third college season with a likely NFL check staring him in the face has just that. And it’s killing coaches like Saban and Smart.
There’s not a damned thing they can do about it, either, other than trying to convince the NFL to penalize kids for making a decision to skip a bowl game. Good luck with that. Of course, they could always advocate for student-athletes to be paid enough where it becomes worth their while to stay in school… eh, who am I kidding with that?
Tommy Tuberville weighs in.
“Personally, I think they just need to go in and wipe out the entire administration, get everything cleaned out and start over — because obviously people knew what was going on — and just get back to being Ole Miss and clean the slate and get people in there that want to get the job done the right way,” Tuberville said on ESPN Radio. “It’s just a sad day for them because people in that state really want to win games and want to be competitive at Ole Miss. And they’ve done a great job to this point and now they’ve had a terrible setback.”
I bet he’s got just the guy in mind to help clean up, too. Plus, he’ll be in the neighborhood real soon.
Ole Miss elevated offensive line coach Matt Luke, a former Ole Miss player, to interim head coach Thursday night. Tuberville said Thursday Luke was the first player he recruited when he jumped on board as Ole Miss’ coach in 1995.
Tuberville coached Ole Miss from 1995 through 1998 before beginning a 10-year stint at Auburn.
“Most schools are blood. You have to have people that believe in what you’re all about,” Tuberville said on the radio show. “… I talked him into walking on at Ole Miss.”
Tuberville, who was recently hired by ESPN as an on-air talent, said he plans to visit with Luke on Ole Miss’ campus to provide guidance.
Remembering the way he left Ole Miss, I’m sure his arrival will be greeted with open arms by the locals.