‘I have no idea who all is behind it’: Hugh Freeze brushes aside Mississippi State’s alleged involvement in NCAA probe

Published 1:39 pm Monday, November 21, 2016

The Egg Bowl has never been mistaken for a friendly rivalry, and the heightened success Ole Miss and Mississippi State have experienced in recent years has only added to the hostility among the schools and their fans.

The NCAA’s investigation at Ole Miss has added another layer.

Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) and Mississippi State (4-7, 2-5) are preparing for their 113th meeting and 87th battle for the Golden Egg at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday (2:30 p.m., SEC Network), but talk of the ongoing probe into rules violations within the Rebels’ football program resurfaced last week when administrative assistant Barney Farrar was put on leave as the NCAA waits to interview Farrar in the latest twist in the four-year investigation.

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“It’s been difficult for us to endure it all,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said of the investigation without getting into specifics.

Farrar was scheduled to meet with the NCAA this week, but the interview has been delayed as the NCAA tries to corroborate claims made by Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis of violations allegedly committed by Ole Miss during his recruitment, according to a report by the Ole Miss Spirit. Farrar, Ole Miss’ assistant athletics director for high school and junior college relations, helped the Rebels recruit Lewis, the former Brookhaven High standout who chose Mississippi State over Ole Miss in 2015.

The NCAA reportedly interviewed players at Mississippi State, Auburn and other SEC West schools this summer and offered immunity from possible sanctions in exchange of truthful accounts of their recruitment by Ole Miss, though which specific players were interviewed isn’t known.

Freeze refused to address any alleged role Mississippi State may be playing in the NCAA’s investigation when asked about it at his weekly press conference Monday. The coach is ready for it all to come to an end, though Ole Miss still has to have its hearing with the Committee on Infractions before that can happen.

“I have no idea who all is behind it, so it would be kind of crazy for me to comment on that,” Freeze said. “Hopefully it’s coming to an end soon.”

The probe is just part of this season’s frustration for Ole Miss, a team that began the season ranked in the top 15 nationally but now needs a win over its rival just to make a bowl game. Freeze reiterated that getting there would be no small consolation.

“It’s very difficult to win all these games, and the margin of error is so small,” Freeze said. “So when you continually get the opportunities to do that and get extra reps and extra practices and the experience of playing in bowl games, it’s helpful in recruiting and it’s helpful in developing the young kids. It’s very important.”