July 14, 2017 10:35:40 AM
HOOVER, Ala. -- Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze can't help but notice a trend in his appearances at Southeastern Conference Media Days.
In all but his first year, Freeze had a topic outside of football to address more than any other.
That didn't change Thursday.
One day after former Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt sued the school and its athletic foundation alleging defamation and breach of contract, Freeze took the podium on the final day of the four-day event that kicks off the season. The lawsuit, according multiple reports, accuses Freeze, Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork, and associate athletic director for communications Kyle Campbell of spreading a "false narrative" about Nutt's tenure as the school's coach.
It's the next chapter in a saga with the NCAA and its investigations into alleged recruiting improprieties in Freeze's time in Oxford.
"I'm looking forward to our meeting with the (NCAA) Committee on Infractions so we can put this behind us, but until then, I will continue to cooperate," Freeze said. "I cannot answer any questions specifically related to our case, but you are welcome to read our response."
Ole Miss contested select allegations against Freeze in its official response to the NCAA's revised Notice of Allegations on June 6.
Freeze, when asked about the Nutt lawsuit, said, "I would absolutely love to share my opinion on it, but unfortunately, it's a legal case and I can't comment."
Otherwise, Freeze answered several questions on the matter, including how Ole Miss became embroiled in the controversy.
"We created it in and around our program," Freeze said. "We've got to be responsible for the area in which we were deficient in, in which we didn't either react or act properly. We have to own that and me being in the position that I am, I have to stand and look people in the eye and take that. I've been charged with leading us through this time."
Freeze is confident he'll have help from Shea Patterson leading the Rebels through the situation.
Patterson was bound for a redshirt in his freshman season, but he played in the final three games of the year and amassed 1,049 yards of offense (880 passing and 169 rushing) and threw for six touchdowns.
Patterson isn't shying away from that responsibility. Those around Patterson have seen him embrace it.
"He is our guy. We put all our faith in Shea," Ole Miss defensive lineman Breeland Speaks said. "I wouldn't say he's just a flat-out vocal guy, but I'd say that's something us as leaders are working on to help him out. As the quarterback and the man and the face of the program, you have to be."
In looking at a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season, Freeze chooses not to view it as an opportunity lost but as part of a timeline that is going to take Ole Miss to its "finest hour."
Freeze doesn't think the lawsuit or the NCAA investigation will affect his players.
"It has zero bearing on their opportunity to get a degree," Freeze said. "It has zero bearing on their opportunity to develop themselves as the best player they can be, and has zero effect on being the best man they can be."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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