How do you take responsibility for something without taking responsibility for anything?
Distinguished philosophers throughout history, from Socrates to Plato to Brady Hoke, have attempted to answer this vexing conundrum. But it was Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze, in his response to the recent spate of NCAA allegations against the Rebels’ athletic department, who finally figured it out.
“The first thing I would say is that I own it. That’s part of it when you’re the head coach. You take the good with the bad,” Freeze told ESPN’s Chris Low. Which, fine. It’s nice to see Freeze take responsibility for his program’s misdeeds. After all, the buck stops with the head coach, right?
But wait! Freeze isn’t finished. He continues: “But there’s a big difference between making mistakes in recruiting and going out there with the intent to cheat. I don’t have any information that anybody on my staff has been involved in any illegal payments to players or offering any inducements to players, and if I did have that information, I would fire them.”
Let’s take a moment to unpack this, because it’s denser than Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time. First off, Freeze claims that “making mistakes in recruiting and going out there with the intent to cheat” aren’t the same thing. This is true, but he neglects to mention the exact nature of the “mistakes” Ole Miss stands accused of making, which range from fixing recruits’ ACT scores to doling out cash payments and car loans. These aren’t the sorts of things that happen without an “intent to cheat.” Is Freeze suggesting that an evil demon is covertly planting cash on Ole Miss players at the behest of Dan Mullen?
Next, Freeze purports to lack evidence of “any illegal payments.” That’s funny, because such evidence became publicly available last month when Laremy Tunsil’s hacked Instagram account posted screenshots of an incriminating exchange between Tunsil and assistant AD John Miller. At a press conference shortly thereafter, Tunsil admitted that the texts were real and that there was an exchange of money that involved Ole Miss coaches, saying “Like I said, I made a mistake, it happened.” It’d be naive to think Freeze was unaware of this development.
Freeze’s apology makes it seem like he wants you to view him as the bumbling idiot he was portrayed as in The Blind Side, and not as what he actually is: the handsomely paid CEO of a major college football program. As a result, his words ring hollow, evoking the tone-deaf denials athletes often use to explain away PED scandals. But give credit where it’s due: The sheer cognitive gymnastics Freeze has pulled off here are too much for most human brains to handle. Thankfully, Freeze is operating on a higher plane of thought than most of us … or he’s just a massive hypocrite.