Hugh Freeze lasted five seasons as head coach at Ole Miss before he resigned amid scandal on Thursday evening.
While the Mississippi native was a resounding success on the field during his tenure, winning nearly 60 percent of his games and reaching a Sugar Bowl, off the field the program had become the subject of an NCAA investigation and Freeze’s own personal conduct ultimately ended up costing him his job.
Here’s a look at the highs and lows of his tenure in Oxford, Mississippi:
Dec. 5, 2011: After a 10-2 season at Arkansas State — his first as a head coach in college football — Freeze is hired by Ole Miss to replace Houston Nutt. The Independence, Mississippi, native made his way through the ranks as a high school coach in Tennessee and was hired by Ole Miss first as a support staff member in 2005 and then as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach from 2006 to ’07. He was not retained when Nutt took the job in 2008.
Sept. 1, 2012: Freeze wins his first game as Ole Miss’ head coach, beating Central Arkansas 49-27. With Bo Wallace at quarterback, the offense takes off, ranking in the top five of the SEC in scoring, total offense and passing. The Rebels go on to lose three games by a combined 10 points, but still manage to get bowl eligible by beating in-state rival Mississippi State in the final game of the regular season.
Feb. 6, 2013: After a respectable first signing class at Ole Miss in 2012, Freeze blows the doors off of expectations with the No. 5-ranked class in the country. The class includes No. 1 overall prospect, DE Robert Nkemdiche, along with the No. 1 offensive tackle, Laremy Tunsil, and the No. 1 wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell. However, the star-studded haul on signing day also raises a few eyebrows about how such a class came together at a school not known for its recruiting prowess. A few days earlier, Freeze took to Twitter to post: “If you have facts about a violation, email email@example.com. If not, please don’t slander the young men.”
Oct. 4, 2014: In what will go down as the signature win of the Hugh Freeze era at Ole Miss, the Rebs take down then-undefeated and No. 1-ranked Alabama 23-17. It’s the first time the school has ever beaten the No. 1-ranked team, and it’s pandemonium in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as fans storm the field and the goalposts are carried out of the stadium. “It’s a huge win for our program and our fans,” Freeze says afterward. “It’s been a tremendous day.”
June 24, 2015: Star left tackle Laremy Tunsil is arrested on charges of domestic violence against his stepfather, Lindsey Miller. Miller later alleges that Tunsil was “riding around with football agents” at the time of the altercation that led to Tunsil’s arrest. Ole Miss eventually suspends Tunsil for the first seven games of the 2015 season while the NCAA investigates alleged improprieties.
Jan. 1, 2016: Freeze helps guide the Rebels to a 48-20 rout of No. 16 Oklahoma State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. It is Ole Miss’ first time playing in the Sugar Bowl since 1970. The win also marks the first time the Rebels won 10 games since 2003. With one of the SEC’s best offenses during the 2016 season, the Rebels pound out 554 yards of offense and even watch left tackle Laremy Tunsil rumble in for a 2-yard touchdown on a lateral.
January 2016: Ole Miss receives its notice of allegations stemming from a multiyear NCAA investigation. The football program is cited by the NCAA in 13 of the 28 rules violations levied against the school, with nine of the violations occurring during Freeze’s tenure. There are four Level I violations, two Level II violations and three Level III violations.
April 29, 2016: On a day when the three crown jewels of the 2013 recruiting class are set to be drafted, Tunsil’s social media is hacked. A video posted to his Twitter account shows the former No. 1-rated offensive tackle smoking a bong. Then, on Instagram, a screen shot of a text message exchange is posted showing Tunsil arranging for money from an Ole Miss staff member to pay his mother’s rent and electricity bill.
May 27, 2016: Ole Miss self-imposes a double-digit reduction in scholarships (11) for the football program over a four-year span, as well as an already-served postseason ban for women’s basketball, as part of its response to an NCAA notice of allegations. Ole Miss officials also ask the NCAA to delay the school’s hearing with the Committee on Infractions so it can have more time to investigate whether former left tackle Laremy Tunsil received additional improper benefits while playing for the Rebels.
Feb. 23, 2017: Ole Miss self-imposes a one-year bowl ban for the 2017 season, after the university receives a new NCAA notice of allegations that accuses the school of lack of institutional control and Freeze of failure to monitor his coaching staff. The second NOA includes eight new alleged rules violations and the lack of institutional control charge. The NCAA now accuses the Rebels of 21 rules violations by current or former members of their football coaching staff.
July 12, 2017: Less than 24 hours before Freeze is set to arrive in Hoover, Alabama, for SEC media days, Nutt files a lawsuit against Ole Miss and the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation in which Freeze is named as a central figure. In the lawsuit, Nutt alleges that Freeze orchestrated a “smear campaign” against him. At media days, Freeze refrains from speaking about Nutt or the lawsuit other than to say that the timing was unfortunate. He chooses not to comment about the ongoing NCAA investigation either. “We look forward to our meeting with the Committee on Infractions and putting this behind us,” Freeze said. It would be the last time Freeze spoke publicly as Ole Miss’ head football coach.
July 20, 2017: Freeze resigns, effective immediately, for what Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter described as a “pattern of personal misconduct.”