Hugh Freeze had frequent contact with a man at the center of the NCAA’s investigation.
Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze had over 200 phone calls with an ex-Rebels booster accused of NCAA violations, according to an analysis of Freeze’s phone records by USA Today.
Between January 2015 and Freeze’s resignation, he and Lee Harris exchanged in excess of 200 phone calls. Harris, who owns a restaurant in Oxford, is accused of providing an Ole Miss recruit with $200 to $600 in free food and cash payments to the player and his family between March 28, 2014 and Jan. 25, 2015. Harris was interviewed by the NCAA as part of its investigation in November 2016.
Freeze’s attorney told USA Today that his client first met Harris in a chance encounter at church sometime after the alleged violations and became friendly. The lawyer said that Freeze did not discuss the investigation with Harris, which would be an NCAA violation.
The timing of some of the calls is interesting. One came a week before Harris was interviewed by the NCAA, another came shortly before Ole Miss officials met with NCAA officials in Indianapolis. Harris also placed four calls to Freeze on a single day in February, days before the NCAA send Ole Miss its Notice of Allegations.
Freeze’s phone records for his state-issued cellphone have been subject to intense scrutiny since his resignation last month. It was a call placed to a Tampa escort service that led Ole Miss to more closely study his call log and uncover a “pattern of personal conduct” the school deemed unacceptable. Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork told the Wall Street Journal this week that Freeze’s calls to escort services lined up with his recruiting trips on the school plane.
Harris is just one of several Ole Miss boosters accused of NCAA infractions for providing illicit benefits to players or prospective players. The Rebels self-imposed a bowl ban for this season in February after receiving a second Notice of Allegations from the NCAA that alleged eight new violations, bringing the current total to 21 alleged violations.