As far as SEC media personality Paul Finebaum is concerned, former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze’s return to college football is a matter of when, not if.
Finebaum was on Birmingham station WJOX’s The RoundTable Monday morning and discussed a number of topics about the SEC. Among them was when and where Freeze will resurface in the coaching world.
“Well, I think he’ll come back somewhere as a head coach,” Finebaum said. “Clearly, we’ve been through this episode a couple of months ago with [Alabama coach Nick] Saban trying to hire him. I think that was the first step, but I think once the cloud lifts — which it will after he sits out a year — he can get a job at a lower-level school. I mean, I think he’s a very good coach who just got caught up in a lot of bad headwinds where he invited people to look into what he was doing and they did.”
Finebaum pointed out it wasn’t the NCAA’s first look into what was happening at Ole Miss that did Freeze in. Instead, it was what followed after former Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil had videos and text messages released the night of the 2016 NFL Draft that became the beginning of Freeze’s biggest problems.
The video of Tunsil smoking out of a gas mask bong as well as screenshots of text messages from Tunsil asking Ole Miss assistant athletic director John Miller for money set off a second wave of scrutiny from the NCAA. The Rebels took away 11 football scholarships after the NCAA’s first Notice of Allegations in May 2016 after the governing body found 13 football-related violations; the team announced a self-imposed bowl ban in February 2017 after the governing body found eight more football-related violations in its second Notice of Allegations.
Freeze resigned July 20, 2017, after a Freedom of Information Act search through phone records found a number associated with a female escort service on Freeze’s school-issued cell phone.
Finebaum contemplated on The RoundTable whether or not Freeze should have held a mea culpa to explain what had happened, something Freeze has yet to do. While Freeze’s silence left fans and media alike with numerous questions and no answers, Finebaum explained there was reason in his decision to stay quiet.
“I think he’s hirable. He’s a personable guy,” Finebaum said. “[Not discussing it] may work because by the time you see him again, people are not going to remember it. Talking about this almost every day, most people don’t really understand what happened there. They think it may have been a one-time mistake or a one-time episode, so by not talking about it the longer goes on — I know this sounds convoluted — the less people really know or care.”
Finebaum conceded that Freeze’s record on the field will ultimately have more say in his future that what happened off it.
“If you walk into a bar in Atlanta, New Orleans or Tampa [and ask], ‘What do you know about Hugh Freeze?’ Outside of the fact he lost his job, he beat Nick Saban twice,” Finebaum said.