Hugh Freeze resigns from Ole Miss after 'misdial' call to escort service on school-issued phone

In a stunning turn of events, Hugh Freeze has resigned from Ole Miss. The move comes after the school found at least one call from the coach to an escort service on his school-issued cell phone.

Athletic director Ross Bjork said the initial phone call originally was “attributed to a misdial.” But further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a “pattern of conduct” that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week. Bjork said he and school administrators spoke to Freeze Wednesday night.

“Coach Freeze was very transparent, open, honest and admitted the conduct,” Bjork said, without specifying what that conduct was.

Freeze met again with the Ole Miss administration Thursday morning and offered his resignation, which was immediately accepted. Bjork said that if Freeze had not offered his resignation he would have been fired for cause, citing the “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract. Bjork said there was no buyout of the contract and no settlement.

“He admitted that conduct to us,” Bjork said. “None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter characterized this as “a very hard day. This is a painful decision. But it’s the right decision. Together, we will weather the storm.”

Ole Miss defended head coach Hugh Freeze in its response to the NCAA. Now it has fired him. (Getty)
Ole Miss defended head coach Hugh Freeze in its response to the NCAA. Now he has resigned amid a scandal. (Getty)

Bjork said Freeze addressed the players and coaching staff this afternoon. Assistant Matt Luke was elevated to interim head coach and will coach the 2017 season, Bjork said.

“He’s a leader, he’s a rock, he’s an Ole Miss Rebel,” Bjork said of Luke.

Yahoo Sports inquired last week with Freeze and Bjork about a call at 8:34 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2016, to a Detroit number that is linked via various websites to a Florida-based escort service. Freeze told Yahoo last Friday that the call had been brought to Ole Miss administrators’ attention by former coach Houston Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, and that they had questioned him about it. Freeze told Yahoo he had no idea why the call was on his phone records.

“I’ve got no idea, to be honest,” Freeze said. “I was in an 813 area code and that was a 313 number, I think that might have been a misdial. I don’t think there was even a conversation. There’s nothing to it.”

Yahoo Sports obtained Freeze’s phone records from Mars, whose client is suing Ole Miss for breach of contract. The call lasted only one minute, raising the possibility that it was a wrong number.

Freeze said he had the opportunity to redact numbers from his phone logs after a freedom of information request was made by Mars for his cell record. He said if there were anything nefarious about the call, he would have redacted it.

“If I was trying to hide something, I would have,” Freeze said. “That call shows up nowhere else on my records. There is no story to that one.”

Bjork told Yahoo on Friday that after receiving the information from Mars, the school had pulled records of Freeze’s cell calls and plowed through 39,000 calls without finding another instance of a call to the 313 number. However, the school kept digging through the records and must have found additional troubling information.

Ole Miss already is embroiled in a serious and lengthy NCAA investigation. The school had been standing staunchly behind Freeze, despite his being charged with multiple violations.

“It’s a sad day,” Bjork said Thursday.

Freeze went 39-25 in six seasons at Mississippi.