Freeze: ‘Lot of progress’ in investigation into Tunsil’s money claim

Published 12:02 pm Friday, May 6, 2016

All that’s left for Hugh Freeze to do is wait.

Though Freeze claimed he’s not privy to the exact details of the probe, Ole Miss’ football coach said the school is making significant headway in its investigation into Laremy Tunsil’s claim after he was selected in the first round of last week’s NFL Draft that he received money from a coach while at Ole Miss.

“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 said during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Thursday. “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.”

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Tunsil, a three-year starter for the Rebels, potentially added another layer to the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss’ football program when he made the admission in response to a question he fielded from a reporter during his post-draft press conference 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. The alleged messages showed Tunsil asking Miller for money to help pay rent and family bills.

Tunsil said the messages were real. Ole Miss, in its only public response to the events of last Thursday, issued a statement saying it was aware of the messages and claims made by Tunsil and that it would investigate the matter.

Asked how Tunsil’s claim could affect the NCAA’s investigation, Freeze said he wasn’t sure because he’s not involved in “the fact-finding process.” It’s unclear if Tunsil’s comments are already part of the investigation because Ole Miss has not made public the Notice of Allegations it received in January.

The women’s basketball and track teams are also subjects of the investigation, which dates back to 2012.

Ole Miss is preparing its response to the NCAA after receiving a 30-day extension to the standard 90-day window given to all Division I schools to respond once they receive an official notice, but the case could be further delayed should the NCAA hit Ole Miss with additional allegations.

“I think it depends on what the facts reveal,” Freeze said when asked if the school expects to be issued a revised Notice of Allegations. “(Athletic director Ross Bjork and I) haven’t even discussed the next step. You gather the facts first, and then we’ll know a lot more after that of what they are.”

In the meantime, Freeze will continue to practice patience that he admitted is starting to wear thin.

“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,” Freeze said. “We’re still in that process.”

Conner improving
As for players who are still around, 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, a rising senior, 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.”