Here are a few comments from Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze at Thursday’s SEC Media Days that I thought you might find interesting.
Q. Coach, going back to draft night, I think you can make an argument that social media had a case and potentially costing Laremy Tunsil millions of dollars, quite literally. For a college athlete with so much to lose, what is the upside to even being on social media? Because it seems like it’s just an accident waiting to happen for most of them.
COACH FREEZE: I don’t know any school that puts as much into trying to educate your kids about branding on social media and dangers and pitfalls of it. I’m confident we worked as hard as we can on that. Kids still make mistakes, and he did. But the evilness in this world, the fact that someone would do that at that moment to young men, is very saddening.
And I see it all the time on social media. It’s fueled with either unhappy people, or people that want to tear others down for sure. And nothing is going to be kept in their lives anymore that is private. And it is a danger that is constantly costing people.
I think you can use it for positive. I try to do that every day. I’m not a big fan of it. I kind of wish I wasn’t even a part of it. But I do think you can use it for good. And I think our kids, being in the platform they have as a college athlete and the SEC, they can really use it for good, and I’m hopeful that ours will.
But there is no question that on that given night is a great example for our young men. We have a gift box at our place, and in that gift box goes things we should learn from the gifts of others. And sometimes we give our own self a gift. We go through those constantly and what should we learn from it. And hopefully we’ll take that and that mistake won’t happen again.
Q. You’ve mentioned that head coaches are now more accountable, I guess, for NCAA violations, and you’ve said previously that you’re confident the NCAA won’t punish you personally. What gives you that confidence?
COACH FREEZE: I don’t know that I’ve ever said “confident.” I’m — I obviously believe that I am responsible for things that happen in our program and some that are outside, and you have to be able to prove that you’ve set a tone of compliance, which I’m confident that I have done that. But ultimately that’s not my say. I can’t comment on anything that’s ongoing with the NCAA.
Look. Everybody has — everybody’s got a narrative. You have one, I have one, our rivals have one. All of us have one in regards to us going on in the world and in our world with the NCAA. It’s obvious that the allegations have come. We’ve got our notice. I would encourage you to read our response, and we look forward to that day.
But with everybody’s narrative going on, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle and the facts are this. There will come a day where we get to stand before the committee on infractions, which are the ones that matter, and we will be held accountable for any wrongdoing that is found, and that’s the way it should be. We don’t want it to be. I have zero interest, zero interest, in cutting corners to be successful, and our staff knows that very well. I have a lot of things that I’m not very good at, but that is not a temptation.
But we will be responsible and held accountable for anything that happened on that day, but until that day, we’re going to stay focused on being the best football team we can and continue to be relevant and having confidence in who we are. Because I see it every day, I see the impact it has. Recruiting is still going really well because people know us for who we are.
Q. To follow up on your last comment about not wanting to cut corners, in the response that you guys submitted to the NCAA, and I believe I read that your school spent over $1 million on a legal defense to help create that response, it essentially assigns a lot of the violations that happened in the program to carelessness, or ignorance, or just flat missed communication and that type of thing. But I’m curious, especially given that you knew the scrutiny that your program was going to be under with those high-profile players that you recruited, how do you explain not dotting every I and crossing every T with regard to their recruitment and what they did when they got on campus?
COACH FREEZE: That’s a good question, and we obviously feel like we did dot a bunch of Is and crossed a lot of Ts. Could we have been better? Obviously we could. Until we get to share some of the back story on some of the allegations that maybe brought us to a point, you know, it’s really hard for me to sit here and answer that.
But it’s a great question. And we will learn from where we made the mistakes, of course, but, you know, there’s a lot of things we did right also. And it still doesn’t always work out and you don’t always have control over every aspect outside of the walls of your building, but I know how much time we spent into educating our young men of the dangers that they could face. And still sometimes kids make mistakes, but we look forward to that day, we really do, where we can say here’s our program, here’s what brought us to this allegation, and we will accept the ruling when it comes.