Freeze news stings, but Ole Miss is alive and quite well

Published 11:19 am Friday, July 21, 2017

This isn’t the darkest day for Ole Miss.

Not even close. Things are pretty good around here, in fact.

We have our smartest students, ever. We have one of the most beautiful, well-equipped campuses in the world. We have good leadership and caring, world-class faculty. The university is a great place to work, and to learn.

You can walk from downtown Oxford to the campus in five minutes. Our sports facilities are among the best in the conference for games. The Grove, although a bit too much at times, remains a world-class experience. And, did you see that Rebel softball team this spring?

Hugh Freeze’s departure and football sanctions can’t get us down.

Not even close.

Sure, it’s going to hurt, probably for a while. We heard rumors over the years that Freeze wasn’t as holy as he preached. He told us to ignore it all – the “narrative,” he called it – so we did.

Never mind that when you searched under Freeze’s name in Google during the past year the word “fraud” quickly popped up along with it. (How does that even happen?)

Even the NCAA says that the former Ole Miss football coach had issues — a lack of institutional control is what they are calling it.

Time will tell on that. For now, Ole Miss is left to pick up the pieces while Freeze moves on.

One thing we know: The impact of Hugh Freeze on this university will be felt for some time. He helped bring in record money for several years on the job and rallied support, but the impact of a program under NCAA investigation for years on his watch combined with credibility relating to his departure will sting.

It’s all just a proverbial bump in the road, however, nothing like the real conflict our campus and others have seen in the past.

And while coaches come and go, and Ole Miss stands stronger than them all. They just get to hold the reigns for a while.

Former Rebel player Matt Luke has charge now, and nobody is calling him a fraud. Luke, now interim head Ole Miss coach, is a rock, as characterized by Rebel athletic director Ross Bjork. And those who know Luke are quick to say that he is more about action than talk, probably the right fit at the right time.

A bit less Twitter, a lot more taking of responsibility.

Let’s not forget, either, that football coaches are just that. Nothing more.

Chancellor Jeff Vitter has charge of this university. He’s a good man and a good leader, committed to transparency and integrity.

The Vaught will still be open on Saturdays this fall, and so will the Grove. Before that, a new freshman class will arrive, and hundreds of classrooms and well-trained faculty will open hearts and minds to higher quality higher education.

It’s the only narrative that really matters, really – the one that reminds us that Ole Miss is alive and quite well, perhaps stronger than ever before.

David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at david.magee@oxfordeagle.com.