Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze exchanged more than 200 calls with disassociated booster

Published 3:06 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze exchanged hundreds of phone calls with a booster involved in the NCAA’s investigation into the football program, according to USA Today Sports.

According to the report, which cited phone records, Freeze and Lee Harris, the owner of Funky’s, an Oxford-based restaurant and bar, called each other at least 200 times from January 2015 until the end of Freeze’s five-year tenure at the school, which came with a forced resignation July 20 amid an escort scandal. The calls included the time Harris was being investigated and continued before and after he was interviewed by the NCAA on Nov. 16, 2016.

The NCAA has alleged that between March 2014 and January 2015, Harris provided Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, who was then a recruit, with cash payments between $100 and $200 and gave Lewis, friends and family members free food and drinks totaling between $200 and $600. In its response to the Notice of Allegations, Ole Miss didn’t dispute that Harris had in-person and phone contact with Lewis and his friends nor that they received free meals but refuted the alleged payments.

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The charge is one of 15 Level I allegations Ole Miss is facing as part of its NCAA case, which are deemed the most serious in the eyes of the NCAA.

Talks between Freeze and Harris about the case could potentially violate NCAA bylaws, but Freeze’s attorney, H.G. Watkins, told USA Today he believes the conversations between Freeze and Harris, who formed a friendship after Harris’ alleged violations occurred, didn’t pertain to the investigation.

“One thing Hugh Freeze has done throughout this is not discuss the case with anyone,” Watkins said. “Part of the problem with NCAA rules is the school can’t talk about the case with Hugh Freeze and he can’t talk about the case with his coaches or players. He’s isolated in all this. That’s why I can say categorically he didn’t talk about the case.”

Ole Miss’ hearing with the Committee on Infractions will begin Sept. 11.