Two of the West Lot Pirates are Medill grads, which means we were taught the merits of good ol’ Shoe Leather Journalism. In the information age, classic muckraking should be easier than ever, so it’s sometimes frustrating for us when certain questions, or lines of questioning, go unasked.
Take, for example, the resignation (firing) of Hugh Freeze.
The standard media line at this point seems to be that Freeze was caught with his hand in the escort cookie jar. Everyone seems to be trying to find solid confirmation of the fact that Freeze was trying to buy himself a hooker in Tampa.
Um…what if that WASN’T what he was trying to do? What, if, say, he wasn’t actually IN TAMPA anytime between January 17th and February 3rd, 2016?
Why February 3? We’ll get to that.
Now, for us to have a 100% verifiable record of Freeze’s flight itinerary during this period, we’d have have copies of his flight records. However, we can get PRETTY DARN CLOSE to knowing exactly where he was, and when, through the magic of Twitter.
By searching @CoachHughFreeze tweets between 1/17/16 and 2/3/16, and cross referencing with recruiting sites, things come into focus surprisingly quickly:
–On 1/17/16, 5-star Ole Miss Signee Greg Little, of Allen, TX, tweets a living room photo with Freeze.
–On 1/18/16 Scout.com reports that Freeze is now in New Jersey, hoping to sway 5-star recruit Rashan Gary.
–On 1/19/16–the original reported day of the escort call–there is no official record of where Freeze was. HOWEVER… –On 1/20/16, Freeze’s tweets and replies strongly suggest that he has been spending time with good and decent church-folk of Washington DC. He specifically references plans to visit the Ebenezer Coffee Shop in DC that day.
–On 1/21/16–the day now stated as the date of the escort call–Freeze–WHO WOULD LATER SUGGEST TO YAHOO SPORTS HE WAS IN THE 813 (TAMPA) AREA CODE THAT DAY–Specifically tweets that he is at the HYATT ON NEW JERSEY AVE IN WASHINGTON, DC, and is about to the fly home to Oxford.
He later tweets that he has arrived in Oxford and is happy to be home.
–From 1/21/16 through 1/24/16, numerous twitter accounts confirm that Freeze is in Oxford hosting recruits, and, eventually, getting his photo taken with Brad Paisley.
–On 1/25/16, recruit Mykel Jones tweets a living room picture with Freeze. Jones lives in Patterson, Louisiana.
–On 1/26/16, we’re not sure where Freeze is.
A NOTE: On 1/25/16, star Florida recruit Tre Nixon committed to Ole Miss. There is one article referring to the fact that, either that day or the day after, Freeze tweeted a photo of himself in a boat in Florida holding a “big fish”–referencing the Nixon commitment. HOWEVER, there is evidence that this is an old photo Freeze was using as early as 2014, and Nixon makes no mention at any time during his commitment about Freeze actually being in his home when he committed. FURTHERMORE, Nixon had literally JUST BEEN in Oxford the weekend before–i.e., the day before. Smart money points to him committing as soon as he arrived back at home. Finally, Nixon lives on the opposite side of the state from Tampa.
–On 1/27/16 Freeze tweets a shot of him flying along an unknown stretch of coastline, along with a presumable recruiting-related tweet about trying to land a “big fish”. “Aha!” one might say, combining this photo with the dark period on the previous day, “Here’s the trip to Florida I was waiting for!” EXCEPT: That day recruit Jonathan Kongbo III tweets a living room photo with Freeze. Kongbo Lives in Vancouver, Canada. This would seem to suggest that the coastline Freeze was tweeting out was in the Puget Sound area.
–On 1/28/16, we don’t know where Freeze is, but we have a pretty good idea. It’s a Thursday, and the coming weekend is Ole Miss’ famed “Crootapalooza”, where they host 20+ recruits. We can be pretty sure Freeze flew back to Oxford that day.
–1/29/16-1/31/16 is Crootapalooza.
–On 2/1/16 and 2/2/16, we’re not sure where Freeze was. BUT
–2/3/16 is National Signing Day, 2016. Freeze was in Oxford that day.
SO LET’S Recap. It sure looks like Freeze went to Texas, then to New Jersey, then to DC, then home to Mississippi, then Louisiana, then Vancouver, then back to Mississippi. NOTABLY MISSING FROM THIS ITINERARY IS TAMPA, FLORIDA.(There remains the question of where Freeze was 1/25 and 1/26. We allow for the possibility that he could have ducked into Florida briefly and then crossed the continent to Vancouver. But there is zero evidence of this.)
Let’s revisit Freeze’s quote to Yahoo. He claims he WAS in Florida, but that, in an explanation that strains credulity, he misdialed an 813 number as 313, and, amazingly, ended up calling an escort service line with a Detroit Area code…that just happened to be actually an escort service actually OPERATING IN TAMPA. What a coincidence! This explanation is so dodgy that it would seem to damn Freeze as guilty. Case closed.
EXCEPT, AGAIN, when Freeze made that call, after 8pm, on 1/21/16, all evidence points to him being home in Oxford, after flying back from Washington, DC. There’s no evidence he was in Florida, or more importantly, EVEN PLANNING TO GO TO FLORIDA.
And here is where we arrive back at the start of this story: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Freeze knew exactly who he was dialing that evening. If he wasn’t in Tampa, and wasn’t going to be in Tampa, then what was the point?
We have to be very careful here, because, to paraphrase Groundskeeper Willie, we don’t want to get sued. But a person, an inquisitive person, could easily harness the power of the internet and arrive, as we have, at an alternate theory for this phone call.
The ultimate point here is that we, a band of non-journalists, were able to cover a heck of a lot of ground here sitting by on our couches and searching twitter. We feel like we’ve raised some pretty interesting questions. Why are we the only ones asking these questions?
That, we can’t answer.
*NOTE: When we originally published this post, we said that Freeze had stayed at a Hyatt in New Jersey. Multiple readers pointed out that he actually stayed at a Hyatt in DC.)
(The links below provide the sourcing used in this story. Our “reporting” required about 15 minutes of effort)
For more, have a listen to the beginning of this week’s podcast: