No easy an­swers when re­porters do their job

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ head foot­ball coach, made it per­fectly clear in his 16-minute open­ing state­ment/fil­i­buster Thurs­day at SEC foot­ball me­dia days that he would not take ques­tions about Hous­ton Nutt’s law­suit against the Rebels that was filed Wed­nes­day.

There were about 400 mem­bers of the me­dia — mostly news­pa­per re­porters or re­porters with news­pa­per back­grounds — who sat through that di­a­tribe Freeze con­sid­ered an open­ing state­ment.

Freeze fi­nally re­lented, say­ing, “I’ll take some ques­tions now.” These were the first three:

Ques­tion 1: “I’m sure you’re aware of the law­suit Hous­ton Nutt filed yes­ter­day. He men­tioned you and the ad­min­is­tra­tion

cre­at­ing a smear cam­paign. I won­der what your re­ac­tion to all that is?”

Ques­tion 2: “Hugh, you talked about how you helped your team han­dle ad­ver­sity. But how have you helped your fam­ily han­dle it, es­pe­cially al­most ev­ery week there’s some­thing in so­cial me­dia, or what­ever, it said that you’re to be fired no mat­ter what.”

Ques­tion 3: “And the sec­ond ques­tion is how con­fi­dent are you that your ad­min­is­tra­tion has your back?”

It may have been col­lege foot­ball, but that’s a prime ex­am­ple of why news­pa­pers and oth­ers with trained re­porters don’t pub­lish fake news.

The reporter who stood up in front of a ball­room full of me­dia and SEC Net­work cam­eras to ask the first ques­tion was our man Bob Holt.

Holt wasn’t ac­cusatory, rude or com­bat­ive.

He asked the ques­tion, as did the reporter who asked the next two ques­tions, without mal­ice. They sim­ply had to be asked.

Freeze didn’t re­ally an­swer the first ques­tion, and he raved about his ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter the third ques­tion (as he should) and talked about his fam­ily, too.

Be­fore Nutt filed his law­suit some time was spent vis­it­ing with me­dia peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with Ole Miss, ask­ing them whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion was stick­ing its neck out too much for Freeze.

Un­der­stand that Ole Miss al­ready has im­posed a bowl ban for this sea­son, and re­duced schol­ar­ships and re­cruit­ing vis­its to try to ap­pease the NCAA. Rules ob­vi­ously were bro­ken.

The an­swer most re­ceived, and these were sub­jec­tive opin­ions, was that Ole Miss isn’t sure it can find an­other coach who can win.

Per­haps to be more pre­cise, Ole Miss can’t find an­other coach who can beat Alabama, which the Rebels did in 2014 and 2015 be­fore los­ing a 48-43 thriller last sea­son.

Only one team in the SEC has a bet­ter streak against the Crim­son Tide than Ole Miss, which has lost one con­sec­u­tive, and that’s South Carolina, which won the last time they played back in 2010. Van­der­bilt has lost 21 con­sec­u­tive to the Tide, and Ten­nessee and Arkansas stand at 10.

Ev­ery other team in the SEC has lost to Alabama at least three con­sec­u­tive times.

Freeze al­ways has come across as a nice guy. His 15year climb from Bri­ar­crest Chris­tian High School in Mem­phis to head coach of the Rebels with a salary of more than $5 mil­lion a year has been doc­u­mented, in­clud­ing one year as an as­sis­tant at Arkansas State Univer­sity be­fore sud­denly be­ing named head coach the next sea­son in 2011.

That’s the job that cat­a­pulted him af­ter one sea­son of head coach­ing to Ole Miss in 2012, just four years af­ter Nutt didn’t re­tain him when he be­came head coach of the Rebels.

No doubt be­fore he ar­rived in Hoover, Ala., for me­dia days Freeze was pre­pared by Ole Miss’ le­gal staff on what he couldn’t say. He made it clear he wasn’t an­swer­ing ques­tions about the Nutt law­suit, but Bob Holt asked ques­tions about the law­suit be­cause that’s his job as a reporter and watch­dog of the peo­ple.

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