Does Ole Miss have a contingency plan if Hugh Freeze is suspended?

Published 9:59 am Thursday, July 13, 2017

HOOVER, Ala. — Among the allegations Ole Miss is facing as a result of the NCAA’s long-running investigation into the football program is a failure-to-monitor charge against head coach Hugh Freeze.

A suspension could be in play for Freeze if the Level I violation sticks, but Freeze, at least publicly, doesn’t sound all that concerned about it. Asked Thursday before his rotation at Southeastern Conference Media Days if there’s a contingency plan in place in the event he has to miss any games during the upcoming season, Freeze brushed off that notion.

“I just think about what I can do today to help these kids, and that’s it,” he said.

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Allegation No. 20 in the school’s Notice of Allegations accuses Freeze of violating his head coaching responsibility by failing to properly monitor his assistants and promote an atmosphere of compliance. Ole Miss is contesting the charge in full.

Freeze isn’t directly implicated in any of the other 20 charges, but running backs coach Derrick Nix, tight ends coach Maurice Harris, former defensive line coach Chris Kiffin and former off-field staffer Barney Farrar are all named in allegations. Farrar was fired in December for what the school described in its response to the amended NOA as the former assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations going “rogue” in committing rules violations.

NCAA bylaw states that head coaches are “presumed to be responsible for the actions of all assistant coaches and administrators who report, directly or indirectly to the head coach.”

Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim was suspended nine games during the 2015-16 season. Last month, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions gave Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino a five-game suspension for the upcoming season for the same charge after it was found one of his former assistants arranged sex for players and recruits at an on-campus facility.

Offensive line coach Matt Luke may be the most likely candidate to fill in for Freeze if needed. Luke, who’s been on Freeze’s staff throughout his six-year tenure, also has the title of assistant head coach.