Freeze dis­graces what he stood for

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - NATE ALLEN

FAYETTEVILLE — If Burt Lan­caster lived to­day he would be bom­barded with Elmer Gantry re­make scripts con­vert­ing the dis­graced, Bi­ble-thump­ing evan­ge­list to a dis­graced, Bi­ble-thump­ing col­lege foot­ball coach.

Un­like Elmer Gantry, based on the Sin­clair Lewis novel with Lan­caster’s por­trayal win­ning him the 1960 Best Ac­tor Os­car and win­ning the movie Best Pic­ture, Lan­caster’s role would not be based on fic­tion if he could play ver­sions avail­able to­day.

Fired Bay­lor coach Art Briles and now just-resigned-un­der­pres­sure Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze live with the vast tal­ents for coach­ing foot­ball of­fense that Lan­caster’s Gantry dis­played with his charis­matic gift of gab.

Like Lan­caster’s Gantry, Briles and Freeze spouted Scrip­ture to pi­ously self-serv­ing de­grees while op­er­at­ing foot­ball pro­grams ap­par­ently far from holy.

Briles from 2008-15 went 65-37 at Bay­lor, 50-15 for his last five years. In 2014 he au­thored the book Beat­ing Go­liath: My Story of Foot­ball and Faith.

By May 2016, Briles was fired af­ter rev­e­la­tions con­firmed by in­ves­ti­ga­tions since 2011 that at least 19 of his play­ers had been sub­jects of as­sault al­le­ga­tions re­ported by 17 women.

Bay­lor’s ath­letic di­rec­tor also was ousted and its pres­i­dent, Ken Starr — of pros­e­cut­ing Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton fame — resigned.

Freeze was com­pelled to re­sign Thurs­day af­ter coach­ing Ole Miss since 2012, in­clud­ing two vic­to­ries over Alabama.

He was fired amid an on­go­ing NCAA in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­leged re­cruit­ing vi­o­la­tions, some of which Ole Miss has ac­knowl­edged with self-penal­ties in­clud­ing no bowl game this sea­son, yet his fir­ing is a sep­a­rate en­tity.

A law­suit filed by Hous­ton Nutt — the for­mer Arkansas coach and Freeze’s Ole Miss pre­de­ces­sor — claims Freeze ini­tially at­trib­uted the bulk of the al­le­ga­tions to the Nutt regime. Nine of the orig­i­nal 13 charged to foot­ball ul­ti­mately proved to be on Freeze’s watch. The law­suit also re­vealed Freeze had di­aled a fe­male es­cort ser­vice on his uni­ver­sity cell­phone.

Fur­ther Ole Miss in­ves­ti­ga­tion of what was as­sumed to be a mis­dial re­vealed what Ole Miss Chan­cel­lor Jef­frey Vit­ter called: “A pat­tern of per­sonal mis­con­duct in­con­sis­tent with the stan­dards we ex­pect from the leader of our foot­ball team. While coach Freeze served our uni­ver­sity well in many re­gards, we sim­ply can­not ac­cept the con­duct in his per­sonal life that we have dis­cov­ered.”

Freeze resigned with­out re­ceiv­ing fur­ther pay­ments from Ole Miss, it was an­nounced.

Vi­o­lat­ing terms of his Arkansas con­tract sim­i­larly led to Bobby Petrino’s 2012 fir­ing with­out set­tle­ment com­pen­sa­tion.

One dif­fer­ence: Petrino never pro­fessed pi­ous­ness like Briles and Freeze.

While an­other ex­am­ple that not all who pro­fess be­ing good Chris­tians and good men are ei­ther one, it shouldn’t be ig­nored that some are both.

Ken Hat­field comes to mind. Though this very col­umn space some­times crit­i­cized the thenArkansas coach as cross­ing bound­aries of church and state with Bi­ble verses from his UA fo­rum, I’ve cov­ered no bet­ter per­son in 44 years.

So if there is a moral to this story, it’s look deep be­yond the la­bels re­gard­less of whether they ini­tially turn you on or turn you off.

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