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Coach Freeze and Rebels fight media perception: why “words matter”

Coach Freeze and Rebels fight media perception: why “words matter”

Words matter—and no one knows that better than a writer. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche notes: “All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”

All-In--1024x726Forgive me for taking issue with CBS Sports’ college football writer Dennis Dodd and his recent comments about the possibility of Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze being suspended as a result of the NCAA investigation into the program, but I believe Dodd’s statements are a perfect example of why so many folks are frustrated with the media.

Must we be forced to parse the words in every single article we read or interview we hear in order to ascertain what, exactly, the writer or speaker is really saying?

Both the interview, itself, and Dodd’s subsequent denial of the reports of what he said remind me a bit of when former president Bill Clinton remarked, upon being questioned about whether or not he had an extra-marital affair:

It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Former President Bill Clinton

Transcript of the interview

In Wednesday’s interview on the Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly radio show, Dodd appears to indicate there is a real likelihood Coach Hugh Freeze will face suspension from the NCAA as part of its investigation into the Rebels.

Why do I say “appears to indicate?” He either said that or he didn’t, right? Judge for yourself. I’ve transcribed the interview and Dodd’s responses, word-for-word.

Host:

“At SEC Media Days, much like yesterday at the ESPN Car Wash, Hugh Freeze was being questioned about his program at Ole Miss. Does he ultimately, in your opinion, survive the current state of his program?”

Dennis Dodd:

I think he does. I mean, the question you’re not asking is does he get suspended under the new penalty matrix? Everything I’ve read and heard is that he is definitely in play for that. He’d be the first football coach, I think, assessed that. The new penalty matrix started August 1st, 2013, I want to say, might be ’12, but it says if something like this happens and you’re you’re found to be directly responsible or ancillary, you know, responsible as the head coach for what went wrong, the NCAA can suspend you for from one game to an entire season. So I think there are two, there are two things in play for Ole Miss. Are they going to get postseason? And, is Hugh Freeze going to be suspended? I think he’ll make it through this; they’ve already tactically, you know, drawn a circle around an assistant or two who…uh…they’re trying to portray as people handing out this money. I think he does make it. Not without a lot of embarrassment and maybe some severe damage to his program, his ability to win, but I think he makes it.

Dennis Dodd

Host:

“What do you think is more damaging to the program, Hugh Freeze getting suspended for three games or four games or they get a post season ban for a year?”

Dodd:

Certainly, post season. You never want to have that taken away because then you don’t have anything to play for. You know, we saw what happened to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and they, you know, they got along fine. Now that’s a different sport but, I think, you know Ole Miss, look, if in that season Ole Miss, let’s say they have the best team in the SEC West and Hugh Freeze has to miss four games, well they’re playing for something. You know, they may be able to get through through those three or four games but at least there’s that rainbow at the end of the tunnel. He’d much rather have a suspension.

Dennis Dodd

Backing off the comments

On Thursday morning, Dodd tweeted the following:

What are the sources?

No reasonable person could read or hear Dodd’s comments on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly and infer he was suggesting anything other than the idea that Coach Freeze may well be suspended by the NCAA. However, it is important to note that Dodd never indicates from where his alleged information comes. One would have to assume it does NOT come from a member of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions (COI), the group that will determine what, if any, punishment the Rebels receive beyond those they have already self-imposed.

Either Dodd has actually “read and heard” that Coach Freeze is facing suspension, or he has not. If he has indeed “read and heard” it, surely he can at least give us a basic idea from where he gleaned his information. Did it come from an anonymous source, an unnamed official, an NCAA insider, a school employee? My bet is none of those.

And if it came from another member of the media, well, pardon me for not believing them any more than I do Dodd.

Until the NCAA rules….

Freeze

Coach Freeze speaks at SEC Media Days. (Photo credit: Evelyn Van Pelt, The Rebel Walk)

I have read the Notice of Allegations (NOA) and the corresponding response by Ole Miss to Case No. 189693, and I am going to allow the NCAA process to run its full and complete course without convicting the program or its staff of violations.

I, personally, do not have enough knowledge of the facts and circumstances to draw a conclusion as to what the ramifications will be, nor does anyone else in the media–regardless of the “anonymous sources” some may claim to have.

Do I believe the staff and administration are perfect, never making a mistake of any kind? Of course not; no institution is perfect. In fact, in its response to the allegations, Ole Miss accepts responsibility for various infractions.

At last week’s SEC Media Days, Coach Freeze clearly stated:

There will come a day where we get to stand before the committee of 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.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

I do not believe the Ole Miss program is filled with or led by intentional cheaters who want to gain a competitive advantage in a dishonest way, and I’m confident Coach Freeze prefers to continue to defeat his opponents on a level playing field–not one on which he had any type of unfair advantage. As one who has covered Coach Freeze and Ole Miss since his arrival in Oxford, I expect that type of victory would be pyrrhic for the Rebels’ head coach.

Just the facts, ma’am

In the end, do I have all the facts? No, but neither does anyone else in the media—including Dennis Dodd. And that is precisely why you will not find me predicting what may or may not happen to the Ole Miss football program or its staff.

Words matter—especially when they impugn a head coach and his program.
Words matter—especially when they have the power to potentially affect the decisions young men make about where they will attend school and play football.
Words matter—especially when they can, as Nietzsche describes, “turn the world upside down.”

Ole Miss fans, don’t let unnamed sources, anonymous coaches, rival fans or media “experts” turn your world upside down. Wait for the final ruling from the NCAA, after Ole Miss has made its case, because, as Coach Freeze has stated, those are the only words that truly matter in the end.

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over a decade, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship--and continued as she watched Katie receive three degrees from Ole Miss, culminating with her Pharm D. in 2012. Evelyn, a member of the FWAA, USBWA and the NCBWA, has covered Rebel sports for numerous outlets. In addition to working for The Rebel Walk, Evelyn is a sports writer for a newspaper in Texas.

2 Comments

  1. George Nosser

    This is the best. Story I have seen on OLE MISS, bravo Ms Van Pelt

    Reply
    • Evelyn Van Pelt

      Thank you so much for reading it. I appreciate your comments very much.

      Reply

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