Hugh Freeze has stepped down as Ole Miss head coach, the school announced Thursday.
Assistant head coach Matt Luke has been named interim head coach, and defensive coordinator Wes McGriff has been promoted to the title of associate head coach.
USA Today first reported Thursday that a January 2016 call between Freeze and a number tied to a female escort service was “raised as a potential issue” to Ole Miss by the lawyer of former head coach Houston Nutt in the lawsuit surrounding the school’s severance of Nutt. According to USA Today, Nutt’s attorney emailed Ole Miss’s general counsel and mentioned a “phone call Coach Freeze made that would be highly embarrassing for all of you and extremely difficult to explain.”
In the press conference announcing Freeze’s resignation Thursday night, Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork said that the January 2016 call, initially attributed as a “misdial,” led the athletic department to look into Freeze’s phone records, where they found a “concerning pattern” that led to Freeze’s eventual resignation. Bjork said that had Freeze not resigned, the university would have exercised the moral turpitude clause in his contract and fired him, and that no settlement or buyout was involved in his departure.
“Chancellor Vitter and I spoke with coach Freeze last night,” Bjork said. “We discussed the entire situation. Coach Freeze was very transparent, open, honest, and admitted the conduct. Earlier this afternoon, Chancellor Vitter and I met with coach Freeze again. He offered his resignation, and we accepted. He has taken responsibility and is accountable to his actions.”
The full transcript of Bjork’s comments is available here.
Earlier this year, Ole Miss self-imposed a one-year postseason ban following a notice of allegations from the NCAA over multiple rules violations. Bjork said Thursday night that Freeze’s departure had nothing to do with those violations and was based on a “pattern of personal misconduct.”
Freeze went 39–25 in five seasons as Rebels head coach. The team went just 5–7 last season.