SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama came to an eventful end on Thursday as representatives from the University of Mississippi made their rounds at the nation’s premier college football media event.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, quarterback Shae Patterson, offensive lineman Javon Patterson, and defensive lineman Breeland Speaks spent their day doing press conferences, radio interviews, TV appearances, even signing autographs for fans who attend the event.
Although media days is usually for talking about what to expect on the football field this coming fall, the representatives from Ole Miss spent most of their day addressing questions about things that have happened away from the field.
On Wednesday, former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt filed a lawsuit against the school and their athletics foundation for alleged breach of contract via defamation of character, in relation to the school’s handling of an NCAA investigation.
Also implicated in the suit is current head coach Hugh Freeze and current director of athletics Ross Bjork.
The release of that lawsuit during the week of an event that features around 1,400 media members that all cover SEC football didn’t appear to sit well with coach Freeze.
“The timing was not certainly something I was fond of,” he said.
Although the lawsuit from former head coach Houston Nutt was the biggest story of the day, Hugh Freeze refused to talk about it in-depth, but not by his choice.
“I would absolutely love to share my opinion on it. Unfortunately it’s a legal case, and I can’t comment,” Freeze said.
Despite the uncertainty moving forward of the outcome of this investigation, one thing is for sure, Hugh Freeze has the support of the leaders at the University of Mississippi.
“They’ve been unwavering in their support of me,” Freeze said. “They obviously witnessed me for five years run a program. So they’ve been unwavering, and I’m greatly indebted to them for that.”
On top of the recent lawsuit, Ole Miss also is facing a post-season ban for 2017 in wake of recent NCAA trouble. Freeze was asked about his team’s motivation entering a season that will end with their final regular season game.
“I believe our staff is ready to embrace. We had many talks as a staff,” Freeze said. “I talked to these players quite frequently. I spent more time in individual conversations with our players than I ever have before, and making sure that we were all on the same page together with this.”
“And we went through the shared adversity, being accountable in that in the spring. That will carry over. I got a theme for fall camp to where, again, they hopefully recognize — they can help them recognize their blessings that they have with the scholarship that they have, to be developed as a man, a player.
“They got 12 opportunities to play in the greatest conference in America, and you can prove a lot in those 12 games one way or another,” Freeze said. “And certainly we wish we had it where we could have some carrot at the end of those 12 games, but right now that’s not reality for us. So, what is reality and how do we deal with it? And I get to set the tone for that.
“I feel like this offseason, spring and fall collectively we are taking it as we roll. Fortunately I have great teammates and a great support staff. So right now we are just worrying about what we control, and that is just showing up working out, being the best version of ourselves every day. We are just really looking forward to Sept. 2. Anything else beyond that is kind of irrelevant for us right now.”
Quarterback Shea Patterson is not letting the NCAA situation effect what he, or his teammates, do in preparation for the upcoming season.
“I feel like this offseason, spring and fall collectively we are taking it as we roll,” Patterson said. “Fortunately I have great teammates and a great support staff. So right now we are just worrying about what we control, and that is just showing up working out, being the best version of ourselves every day. We are just really looking forward to Sept. 2. Anything else beyond that is kind of irrelevant for us right now.”
Patterson was also asked about whether or not NCAA issues come up often in the locker room.
“Not at all,” He said. “Of course, when it first happened it was kind of devastating. We all came here to win a national championship, but I think it has brought us all closer together. Adversity tends to crumble people a part or brings guys together. I have never been around a group of guys and coaches that have worked as hard as we have in the spring in the summer. I think we are going to take that chip on our shoulder going into the season.”
Football eventually crept into the conversations for Ole Miss at SEC Media Days, and Shea Patterson will be a big part of Ole Miss’ potential success on the field this fall. He started the last three games for the Rebels a year ago in place of the injured Chad Kelly. That experience, Patterson says, proved to be extremely beneficial.
“I think experience-wise, I learned a lot,” the sophomore quarterback said. ”Getting out there in front of the crowds, getting the chemistry down with your teammates in a game situation. I think that will really benefit me going into this season.”
Ole Miss kicks off their football season when they host South Alabama on September 2nd.