BLOG: Ole Miss making ‘progress’ in investigation into Tunsil’s comments

Published 12:32 pm Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hugh Freeze said it’s hard for him to hold his tongue at times in wake of the ongoing NCAA investigation into Ole Miss’ football program that had another layer added to it when former offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil said after being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft that he took money from a coach at Ole Miss.

But the Rebels’ head coach, like everyone else, is waiting for the situation to play out as the school investigates Tunsil’s comments, which were in response to a question he fielded from reporters last Thursday in Chicago after screenshots of an alleged text conversation between he and assistant athletic director John Miller were posted to Tunsil’s Instagram account after the account was hacked.

Speaking on the Southeastern Conference coaches spring teleconference Thursday morning, Freeze said Ole Miss’ administration “has been aggressively working to reach a resolution” on its probe into Tunsil’s claim.

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“I’m told that we’ve made a lot of progress, but the facts are always more important than speed or our public response, which is difficult for me sometimes because I want to respond,” Freeze added. “But our administration will continue to work with all the parties to get the answers and reach a conclusion as soon as possible, which we’re hopeful that that’s coming quickly.”

Here’s a rundown of the rest of Freeze’s time on the teleconference:

– Freeze said he was “shocked like everyone else living it out in real time” when Tunsil made the claim, but he’s unsure how much it will affect the ongoing NCAA investigation if at all.

“I know nothing,” he said. “I’m not involved in the fact-finding process. … I’m confident that our administration is going to find the facts and then give us a good report on it.”

— Asked how concerned he is about Tunsil’s comments given that no one at the school has said anything publicly since, Freeze said, “Again, I’m not in the process of the fact-finding. I’ll be very quick to come out and defend us when it’s something that we know the facts on. I don’t at this present time. I know our administration is working, and I’m told they’ve made a lot of progress. But they’re collecting everything to make sure they know exactly what the facts are before we run out and make any type of response. I’m trying to be patient. That’s difficult on me sometimes because you want to respond, but there’s great wisdom in being patient and making sure you get the facts. We’re still in that process.”

Has Freeze found that any of his coaches have given money to players, including Tunsil? “No, I haven’t.”

— Freeze said “it depends on what the facts reveal” as to whether the school could get a receive a new Notice of Allegations from the NCAA. It isn’t known if Tunsil’s claims are already part of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation because the school has not made public the Notice of Allegations it received in January.

“(Athletic director Ross Bjork and I) haven’t even discussed the next step,” Freeze added. “You gather the facts first, and then we’ll know a lot more after that of what they are.”

— Ole Miss hasn’t finalized plans for upcoming satellite camps after the Division I Board of Directors last week reversed the NCAA’s ruling to ban the off-campus camps, but Freeze said they’re looking at Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and somewhere on the coast as possible locations to hold them.

“Now that it’s permissible for us to be a part (of the camps), we’re still evaluating that,” Freeze said. “I love for kids to come to our campus. At the same time, we’re going to go see them in some aspect.”

— Freeze said he continues to get good reports from the medical staff on safety Tony Conner, who missed the spring while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Conner missed seven games last season after tearing his meniscus against Alabama on Sept. 19.

“He started running I think two weeks ago,” Freeze said. “There’s been no signs of irritation or swelling after those workouts.”

— Ole Miss opens the season in primetime against Florida State on Labor Day at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, the kind of quality non-conference game Freeze said is easier to schedule now that a playoff exists even if the Rebels are required to do it.

“You just know if you fare well in this conference regardless of what happened in that non-conference game, you would think you’re worthy of those (playoff) discussions,” Freeze said. “That probably gives us more confidence to do that.”

SEC teams beginning this season are required to play at least one non-conference game against an opponent from another Power Five conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12). Ole Miss will travel to Cal in 2017 and host the Bears in 2019. The Rebels also have home-and-away series scheduled with Georgia Tech and Wake Forest for future seasons.