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.”
Forgive 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:
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.
“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?”
“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?”
Backing off the comments
On Thursday morning, Dodd tweeted the following:
I DID NOT say Hugh Freeze was getting suspended at Ole Miss. Anything you're reading that said I did is erroneous.
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 21, 2016
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….
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:
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.