College football has always been a way of life for the people of the Southeast. Many people’s greatest memories stem from incredible moments in their favorite college football team’s history.
Since it is such an important part of life in the region, the pressure of being a college football coach is immense. In some cases, coaches are willing to risk everything just to get slightly ahead of the pack.
Hugh Freeze is the latest example of a coach crumbling under the pressure and feeling the need to cheat.
Ole Miss had won one SEC game in the two years prior to Hugh Freeze’s arrival, and on top of that, is trapped in the SEC West where it must compete against programs with superior facilities, support and talent.
Freeze and staff knew that resurrecting the Rebels football program would be difficult, but they also knew their fans weren’t going to be patient. If the accusations against them are true, then that means he and his staff decided that the only way they could effectively rebuild was through cheating.
Now, the secret is out and the NCAA has had its focus shifted on Oxford, Mississippi, for over a year now.
Last January, the NCAA announced 13 allegations against the Ole Miss football program. In the span of a year this total has now reached 21, resulting in Ole Miss announcing a self-imposed postseason ban as well as the removal of 10 scholarships over a three year period.
Ole Miss is denying most of the accusations in this case, but they are pretty much admitting to being guilty by trying to appease the NCAA with self-imposed penalties.
These penalties are not going to come close to lessening the NCAA’s appetite to make an example of their poor, hapless program. Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze, and some current and former members of his staff are going to be hit hard by the NCAA.
In the NCAA’s newest set of allegations, there was the infamous “lack of institutional control” accusation. This essentially means that Hugh Freeze, and possibly a few assistants, will get hit with a show cause penalty and be out of a job for at least a couple of years.
So why would he and other coaches be willing to do something so risky? Why would they put their families’ livelihoods and their careers in jeopardy?
It’s because college football fans are impatient, and it's hard to blame them for it. They are watching great coaches like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Jimbo Fisher win year after year, which leaves many fans wondering why their favorite program isn’t doing the same.
The reality is that most programs don’t have the resources to meet these lofty standards, but that doesn’t mean fan bases aren’t still going to demand it.
Another problems for coaches is that pressure isn’t just coming from fans anymore. College football coaches are the highest paid state employees in 26 out of the 50 states. Thus, pressure is now felt from the most powerful members of the state’s government. The state is helping to pay the salary and members of the state government expect positive results year in and year out.
High expectations and demands from impatient fans and members at the top levels of the state government are what lead to coaches feeling the need to cheat the way that Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss allegedly did. Freeze knew the only chance he had to compete in a division like the SEC West was by getting help from the boosters like he is accused of doing.
We would be naive to think this was exclusive to Ole Miss. Cheating happens at every program in the country. College football’s popularity is rapidly growing on the national scale and soon coaches at every school, in every region will feel this same pressure.
As soon as this news broke, it was revealed that Ole Miss was trying to take Mississippi State and Dan Mullen down with them during the investigation by reporting accusations to the NCAA. There was also the NCAA investigation of the University of Southern California’s football program that lead to Reggie Bush losing his Heisman trophy and the school vacating the 2004 national championship.
The constant pressure and scrutiny that college football coaches face, ranging from fans to top state employees, is now felt across the country. It has led to an environment that makes many college football coaches feel so concerned about keeping their jobs that they are willing to risk everything to remain employed for as long as possible.