Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with local reporters early Thursday morning

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with local reporters Thursday morning before taking to the main stage at SEC Media Days. Full transcript included.

On his program’s relationship with local police:

“We work hard at trying to develop a great relationship in Oxford with them. We bring them in every year — twice a year, actually — both the campus and the city. We have ride alongs from time to time, particularly for kids who may have made a poor decision. We try to really get them hooked into that and we let the enforcement always tell us of the pitfalls of what’s going on. We’re always in communication with them about the possible pitfalls that could cause a young man to make a poor decision that could reflect badly on our team and obviously on himself. It’s something we work hard at. I’d love for you to ask our kids that; I’d like to hear their take on it. I think the relationship we have is really special in Oxford.”

On where things stand with the NCAA:

“I have zero update. Obviously our response is out to the allegations. It stands on its own, and we can’t discuss any ongoing matters. That’s one of the frustrating things, but out of respect for the process, you can’t do it. We can talk about our integrity and we can talk about our core values, but I’m not sure that’s what the media wants to talk about. But I can’t talk about any of the ongoing things. No one wants it to be over more than I do. I’m ready to concentrate on our team continuing to build its relevancy in college football, which we will. But I have no update. It’s still ongoing.” 

On a timetable for a resolution:

“I asked that yesterday and could not get any concrete answer. It’s moving, I think. I’m not involved in the fact-finding at this point. But I think it is moving. But it would be a total guess, and that’s exactly what Ross (Bjork) told me yesterday — that it would be a total guess if we started talking timeline.”

On if he’d prefer the investigation wrap up sooner rather than later:

“Of course. I’ve had a long enough time with it. I would love for it to be sooner than later. But I don’t know what that means, really. I’m not crazy about if it happens in the middle of the season. But if it does, it does. We’ll argue our facts and our side of things and we’ll be held accountable in and around our program.”

On notable injuries:

“Fadol (Brown) is still battling. He actually started a new treatment this week. The stress fracture he has is in a difficult place, and from my understanding talking to the doctors, some people heal differently from that. His has been a slower heal, so they’re trying some new shock therapy to get the blood flow there. We started that this week, so he’s going to be in a boot getting that treatment for four weeks. We’re hopeful that this will help him turn the corner. (Tony) Conner looks great. (Robert) Conyers looks good. (Damore’ea) String(fellow) looks good. Rod Taylor looks good.”

On any update following Rod Taylor’s spring arrest:

“I say all the time I don’t like to play out the discipline of my kids in the media, but we always have a plan, particularly on first-time issues, where if they satisfy the plan, that would be step one in the redeeming quality and restoration for them. Thus far, he and Breeland (Speaks, arrested for DUI) both have done everything that has been asked.”

On if either will miss playing time:

“That would be up to them and how they fulfill it. If another episode happens, it won’t be up to them. But on the first one with misdemeanor-type deals, they can earn their way without missing playing time. But every situation is different. Both of them seem to be doing well thus far.”

On if he foresees any staff changes due to NCAA investigation:

“Not at this point. But I will if need be. My guys know the expectations, and I’m certainly far from perfect, as many of you know. But one area that is not a temptation for me is to cut corners to try to have success. That doesn’t interest me at all, and my staff knows that. I’m not talking about you don’t make a mistake, and that’s the neat thing that we’ll have when we get to go in front of the Committee of Infractions. We’ll get to discuss some of the things that led to that (mistake) that are not quite as cut and dry as it might be in some people’s eyes. But it’s still a mistake that we have to be accountable for.”

On Laremy Tunsil: 

“I can’t get into that case, but it’s probably not very typical for a kid that has left a program to continue to cooperate, and I’m hopeful that that’s the case here. I think that would speak volumes if that was the case.”

On if Tunsil has been cooperating:

“I hope so. I don’t know to what detail he has. But I sure think that would speak volumes if he does.”

On if Chad Kelly has moved on from sports hernia surgery:

“He’s doing great. I have to slow him down. He and Shea (Patterson), they’re over the top. I walk in at 5 this morning, or 5:30, and they have workouts at 6:30 and they’re already in there throwing. I love that about them.”

On if he’ll be a better coach and if the program will be better off after the NCAA stuff is over:

“Whether you adhere to any kind of faith, I’m a man of faith. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. But Romans 8:28 says ‘All things work together for good.’ And I really believe … I don’t like it. It’s sort of like making a cake. If you were to just have the eggs by themselves, or the baking powder or whatever else goes into it, it doesn’t taste very good. That’s kind of the spot we’re in right now. But when it’s all together, it becomes good. That’s the way I view this. You guys have a job to do, and one of you said — and I don’t know which one — if it bleeds, it leads. But if you really look at the small percentage, thus far, and I don’t know where the end game is, but thus far if you look at the small percentage of people who are in our building — players, staff — that are involved with the Notice of Allegations, don’t miss out on the other large percentage of kids that are being affected by this that had absolutely nothing to do with it. A Robert Conyers or Evan Engram, these two-star guys that have worked their tail off to get to this point and we’ve had a successful thing, and it’s a very small percentage. I say that to say that is what drives me every day, is the relationship with those 98 percent. And even those with the ones that make mistakes. You don’t stop loving them. You don’t stop being who you are. We’re relationship-driven. That’s how we are as a staff, and that’s what helps us with success. There’s so many good things we could talk about going on, but they don’t. And I get it. That’s the way things are in this world. But there are so many good things going on with so may of our kids and in our program and in our foundation that our team is a part of that’s happening in Haiti and the Delta. It’s some neat stuff. Our APR has gone up every single year. Our graduation rate is 80 percent now, under me. That’s not reflected in the news because they do a six-year cycle. But in my time, that’s what it is. We had 17 kids that graduated last year. We’ll have seven that will play this year with degree in hand. The percentage of people that are involved with the issues that we have going on right now is a small percentage. We have to be held accountable for that. But don’t miss the fact that there is a large percentage of great things going on.”

How do you prevent the NCAA stuff from becoming a distraction for your team?

“Tunnel vision. What keeps me up at night right now is Florida State’s defensive line. It really is. You can control what you can control. Like I’ve said from the beginning, the time and place for us to be held accountable is coming. I don’t know when. For us to share our view of things is coming. But the only thing I can control is when that happens, so in the meantime, when I look those kids in the eyes — the ones who have nothing to do with all this stuff that have worked tirelessly to become a relevant program in this country — that is what motivates me. They are the ones that are important — the relationship with them and what they become as a player and a man and a student-athlete. Those are the things that are really important. Whatever we did wrong, we should be held accountable if there are things. We should, and we will be. But the time for that to be decided is not in articles or me trying to have another interview. Some of you want me to talk, some of you don’t. I can’t win either way, and I’m not trying to argue the case. But I am arguing that our core values are important to us. They’ll never stop being important to us. Those kids keep me focused.”

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