Author Archives: jlacombe2
It’s the middle of January.
Should we write about the ongoing implosion of a once-promising basketball season?
Should we write about Clayton Thorson’s ACL?
Should we write about an NU football team with 27 wins in three years not being ranked in either ESPN or Sports Illustrated’s way-too-early 2018 polls?
Of course not!
Let’s write a long-as-heck article about football recruiting.
(Check out our latest podcast where we discuss this article in detail)
Northwestern football fans know that NU recruiting has been on a steady upward trend for the past decade. A program that once recruited as many 2 star players as 3 stars now expects to bring in 3 star talent or better. This includes marquee 3 star players like Godwin Igwebuike, Jeremy Larkin, and Ernest Brown who had other significant Power-5 offers and were even rated as 4 star talents by some services.
But today, we’re going to look at the players who, everyone agrees, define a class as special on signing day: Consensus 4 star and 5 star talents. If Northwestern signs a player like this, that player immediately becomes the bellwether, rightly or wrongly, of the class. If a class includes more than one such player, that class immediately vaults up to or near the best classes the Wildcats have ever pulled in.
Many of the 4 star names NU has reeled in immediately jump to mind:
Then there are the players who weren’t quite able to turn a marquee rating into on-field success:
We even had a 4 star signee who waited until the 11th-hour to help lead the ‘Cats to a bowl victory:
What these players have in common is that they were all massive gets who defined Northwestern as a school that could fish in the deep water of big-time recruiting.
Admit it, though: What do you really know about Northwestern recruiting as it pertains to 4 and 5 star players? How many of these top players does Northwestern actually offer scholarships to? How many of them actually sign with the ‘Cats? How many “big fish” get away, and who is Northwestern losing these players to? Most importantly, what is the profile of a big-time recruit who is likely to sign with Northwestern?
Fear not! Your friends the West Lot Pirates have crunched the numbers, and we’re here to discuss the stats and what they mean.
The following data was compiled using Rivals.com’s recruiting database. That period covers about 15 years of Northwestern recruiting as it pertains to 4 star and 5 star players. Let’s dive in!
FIRST, AN IMPORTANT NOTE:
Information released last year revealed that Northwestern offers the second-fewest scholarships in the nation. Only Stanford offers fewer players. The Wildcats are VERY selective when it comes to recruiting, based on the academic standards of the school and the nature of the program itself. We can thus assume, pretty safely, that if Northwestern offers a scholarship to a football player, Northwestern is actively and seriously recruiting that player.
HOW MANY 4-STAR AND 5-STAR RECRUITS HAS NORTHWESTERN OFFERED, AND WHERE HAVE THOSE RECRUITS ENDED UP?
According to the Rivals database, NU has offered 297 4 and 5 star players since 2003.
Below is a breakdown of the colleges those recruits ultimately signed with. (Only colleges who signed at least 3 players from the list are included here.)
- Notre Dame 32
- Stanford 24
- Michigan 23
- Penn State 21
- Ohio State 17
- Northwestern 11
- USC 10
- Wisconsin 9
- Iowa 7
- Oklahoma 7
- Texas A&M 7
- Cal 6
- Florida 6
- Texas 6
- Michigan State 5
- Oregon 5
- Tennessee 5
- UCLA 5
- Auburn 4
- Illinois 4
- North Carolina 4
- Nebraska 4
- Rutgers 4
- Baylor 3
- Clemson 3
- Duke 3
- Georgia 3
- LSU 3
- Maryland 3
- Pitt 3
- Washington 3
We’re going to be focusing on the top of this list, so let’s reproduce it here:
- Notre Dame 32
- Stanford 24
- Michigan 23
- Penn State 21
- Ohio State 17
- Northwestern 11
MICHIGAN, PENN STATE, AND OHIO STATE
As far as being a source for predictive or useful analysis, the 61 players Northwestern targeted who signed with these three schools don’t mean a heck of a lot. This is because, while we can assume these players all had the academic credentials to fit in as a Northwestern football, player, we have no evidence that these credentials were accompanied by a desire to attend an academically prestigious school. Michigan, OSU, and Penn State are the traditional powers of the Big Ten. They are naturally going to draw top talent, especially in the midwest. A player MIGHT be enticed by Michigan’s academics, but more likely he’s enticed by Big Blue Nation. It’s most likely that these 61 players simply said, “sorry Northwestern, I’m going to play for the Top Dog.”
NOTRE DAME AND STANFORD
This is where things get interesting.
The ND and Stanford numbers above may have jumped out at you, particularly the Notre Dame stats. Far more 4 and 5-star recruits who Northwestern has offered scholarships to have ended up at Notre Dame than any other school.
So, is this a regional thing? I.E., we are competing against Stanford for California recruits, and competing against Notre Dame for Midwest recruits?
Not exactly. The intricacies of the ND/NU AND Stanford/NU relationships are key to defining the kind of 4 or 5 star player who might end up at Northwestern.
Consider this: Northwestern has won or lost 4/5 star recruiting battles to Notre Dame in 13 different states. Northwestern has won or lost recruits against Stanford in 14 different states.
In other words, for recruits who ultimately sign with Stanford, Notre Dame or Northwestern, this is not a regional choice. These players are picking these schools based on criteria–usually related to academic and program standards–that transcend geography.
This fact is born out by the following stat: Of the 11 4-star players Northwestern has signed in the past 15 years, 7 also held offers from Notre Dame, Stanford, or both. Of the remaining four players, three were from Illinois, and 4th, Greg Kuhar, received 4-star status after he had already signed with Northwestern.
These numbers make sense: A player who ultimately signs with Northwestern is likely to have been tempted by Stanford and Notre Dame’s academic reputations. We can easily focus on this by looking at a 4-star player the Wildcats signed who held offers from both Stanford AND Notre Dame:
Patrick Ward is something of a unicorn. If Illinois produced 10 Patrick Wards a year instead of one a decade, Northwestern football would be much better. This because, in addition to being an extremely talented high school football player, Ward is really, really, really smart. He reportedly achieved a nearly perfect score on his ACT exam. Ward would likely have been targeting elite academic universities even if he had never set foot on a football field. What’s more–*NOTRE DAME DIG ALERT*–Ward fell into the narrow category of student for whom there is a significant academic distinction between Stanford/Northwestern and Notre Dame. He didn’t want to go all the way out to California, and his Catholic High School wasn’t enough to sway him from Northwestern to Notre Dame. The ‘Cats were his perfect fit.
The Patrick Ward example is a good jumping off point for examining Northwestern vs. Notre Dame recruiting stats as a whole:
NORTHWESTERN VS NOTRE DAME
When Northwestern and Notre Dame both offered a 4/5 star player, and that player ultimately chose either Northwestern or Notre Dame, the Cats went 6/38. In other words, 6 recruits picked Northwestern, and 32 picked Notre Dame.
These numbers don’t sounds great, but this is, after all, Notre Dame that we’re talking about. More important, however, is what we learn when we break things down regionally.
As a Northwestern fan, you might cringe any time you see that a local recruit Northwestern is targeting also holds a Notre Dame offer. But this isn’t an accurate way to view the NU/ND recruiting battle:
The farther we get from the Midwest, the larger Notre Dame’s advantage over Northwestern grows. For example, of the 6 California recruits who chose either Northwestern or Notre Dame when offered by both, all 6 selected the Fighting Irish.
Once we get into the Midwest, things improve. Consider the following percentages:
A 4/5 star player offered by both NU and ND who picks one or the other picks Northwestern
- Nationally: 16% of the time
- In the Midwest: 20% of the time
- In Illinois: 33% of the time
This last number is important because, in the past 15 years, Northwestern has successfully landed Illinois 4/5 star recruits it has offered scholarships to 20% of the time. In other words, Notre Dame is a positive indicator: A player who seriously considers the two schools is more likely to sign with Northwestern than a player who does not.
There is a final, important point to consider relative to Notre Dame: Whether or not a prospective recruit attends a Catholic High School.
Patrick Ward (Providence Catholic) is truly a unicorn here, because, when Notre Dame and Northwestern go head-to-head for a recruit from a Catholic school, it outweighs any benefit Northwestern might enjoy within the state of Illinois. Regionally and Nationally, Notre Dame is catnip for Catholic school kids. This is an important segue into what is, possibly, the strongest indicator of Northwestern’s chances to land a top recruit:
- When both Northwestern and Notre Dame offer a non-Indiana based Midwest recruit, AND this recruit chooses either Northwestern or Notre Dame, AND this recruit attends a public, non-Catholic high school, the recruit picks Northwestern 27% of the time.
That’s a pretty good number! The Midwest is a big place!
If you don’t already have a particular player in mind when considering the above statistic, you should. He’s the only other player besides Ward to select Northwestern over both Notre Dame and Stanford (in a hat dance, no less), and he’s arguably the biggest recruit Northwestern has ever signed:
It became very clear early on in the recruiting process that academics were very important in the Odenigbo household. The Centreville, Ohio public school phenom narrowed his list to four schools, but quickly eliminated his home-state Buckeyes. He wanted to stay close to home (Alabama was among the schools he turned down), but Northwestern’s academics and fit appealed to him more than Notre Dame’s (*see above ND Dig*). Ultimately, the Cats were his choice. Odenigbo established himself at Northwestern as a physical marvel, but also as cerebral and mercurial. In other words, he’s tremendously gifted in both mind and body. A born Wildcat.
The question, then, becomes not why we didn’t lose Odenigbo to Notre Dame, but why we didn’t lose him to his other final contender.
NORTHWESTERN VS STANFORD
Quite simply, when it comes to recruiting, Stanford cleans our clock. And there is a very, very simple reason why.
Northwestern competes against Stanford nationally in recruiting more than any other school. The two schools target the same kind of student athlete and the two schools offer less players than any other schools in the country. It’s a real competition year-in and year-out, and Stanford dominates it.
In the past 15 years, there have been 27 cases in which a 4/5 star player was offered by Northwestern and Stanford and picked one school or the other. In those cases, 3 players chose the Wildcats. 24 chose Stanford.
Why? It’s obvious. Take a look at the following breakdown of how Northwestern did against Stanford on a state-by-state basis:
- California: 0/7
- Texas: 0/4
- Florida 0/3
- Georgia: 0/2
- Maryland: 0/2
- Virginia: 0/1
- North Carolina: 0/1
- TOTAL: 0/20
What do these states have in common? Warm, or at least mild, weather. Warm state kids picking between NU and Stanford don’t want to brave Chicago winters when they could be in Palo Alto. If Northwestern is recruiting a warm state 4/5 recruit, and Stanford shows up? It’s the kiss of death.
But, to paraphrase Robert De Niro in Heat, there’s a flipside to this coin. Take away the warm weather a recruit has grown up with, and you take away Stanford’s advantage. In the Midwest in the past 15 years, 4 recruits have been offered by both Northwestern and Stanford and picked one school or the other. Two of them–Ward and Odenigbo–chose the Cats.
In the Northeast, the trend continues. In the past 15 years, Northwestern and Stanford have gone toe-to-toe in New York and New Jersey for two major recruits. Shane Skov chose Stanford. Northwestern landed this guy.
And yes, Garrett happened to have an older brother who was already playing for the Cats. But do yourself a favor and take a look at Dickerson’s offer list. He could have played literally anywhere he wanted! Academics were a priority, and Northwestern won out.
PROJECTING POTENTIAL FUTURE NORTHWESTERN COMMITS
So, how can we spin all of this information forward to highlight potential future 4 and 5 star Northwestern recruits?
First, let’s answer a question you might already be asking.
We’ve talked about players with Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Stanford offers who actually choose to attend those three schools. What percentage of these players actually choose to attend these schools, and what percentage attend any other school that has offered them a scholarship?
Over the past 15 years:
- A player with both a Northwestern offer and a Notre Dame offer attended one of the two schools 29 percent of the time.
- A player with both a Northwestern offer and a Stanford offer attended one of the two schools 26 percent of the time.
These numbers could obviously be massaged based on time period or region to either increase or decrease. The main point, though, is there IS a strong correlation. One out of every four recruits with a Notre Dame/Stanford offer and a Northwestern offer ends up with the Irish, Cardinal, or the Wildcats. Remember, 27% of Midwest, non-Indiana, public school football players with ND/NU offers who DO pick one of the two schools pick the ‘Cats!
With this said, let’s break down the categories that should represent a 4/5 star recruit with a strong chance of Northwestern future.
RECRUITS FROM ILLINOIS
This is the simplest category. 6 of the 11 4-star recruits Northwestern signed in the past 15 years were in-state recruits. As mentioned above, 20% of the Illinois 4/5 recruits Northwestern has offered have committed to the Cats. Recruits like this newly-minted Under Armour All-American:
In case you’re wondering, the 20% statistic has NOT improved as the Northwestern football program itself has improved. The reason for this is that, in the old days, Northwestern didn’t really offer major in-state recruits–probably because we had little-to-any chance of landing them. The 20% number mainly applies to players Northwestern has targeted in the past 7-8 years.
MIDWEST PUBLIC SCHOOL RECRUITS WITH BOTH NOTRE DAME AND NORTHWESTERN OFFERS.
The Math isn’t exactly cut-and-dry, but an argument can be made that 1 out of every 4 players who fit this category will actually choose either Notre Dame or Northwestern. There is a 27% chance THAT player will choose Northwestern.
MIDWEST OR NORTHEAST RECRUITS WITH BOTH STANFORD AND NORTHWESTERN OFFERS
There aren’t a lot or recruits who fit into this category, which is a shame, because 1 out of 4 of them will choose either the Cardinal of the ‘Cats. 50% of the time, this player picks Northwestern.
THE SWEET SPOT
This recruit rarely exists. He is basically an amalgam of categories 1, 2, and 3. The ideal 4/5 star NU recruit is from Illinois; also holds an ND offer, a Stanford offer, or both; does not attend a Catholic high school. Think this guy:
Northwestern has somewhere between a 33% chance and a 50% chance of landing this player.
LOOKING AT THE CLASS Of 2019
Thus far, Northwestern has offered 15 4/5 star recruits in the class of 2019. Two of those recruits have already committed to other schools (neither was Notre Dame or Stanford). That leaves 13 recruits.
Right away, we can eliminate the warm-weather guys. Not to throw shade at our coaching staff: We respect the effort. But Northwestern has only ever signed one warm-weather 4 star recruit, and that player, Loren Howard, eventually transferred back home to Arizona. We haven’t signed a warm-weather 4 star guy in more than a decade.
Removing recruits from California, Arizona, and Florida leaves us with an even 10 recruits. Let’s take a closer look at these recruits:
Sadly, no sweet spot guys in this class.
Keegan holds neither a Notre Dame offer nor a Stanford offer. Neither, however, did Devin O’Rourke. Northwestern’s in-state profile has never been better. Lord knows we could use a 4-star offensive lineman! Here’s hoping our 20% chance of landing Keegan comes up roses!
A single player falls into this category, but we’re going to save him for Category 2.
Six players hold Notre Dame offers in addition to Northwestern offers. However, Offensive lineman John Olmstead is (A) From New Jersey, and (B) Attends a Catholic high school. Those are two massive advantages for the Irish over the Cats.
Similarly, 4-star ATH Isaiah Williams, the #1 player in the state of Missouri, also attends a Catholic high school. It bears mentioning, however, that Northwestern has signed a 4-star player from Missouri before:
Campbell also held an offer from Notre Dame and attended a Catholic high school.
Still, the overall statistics give Notre Dame a big edge against NU for a player like Williams.
This leaves a group of four players who fit into
Correll holds a Notre Dame offer along with his NU offer. He also hails from a city, Cincinnati, that Northwestern has recruited well.
This kid is a major recruit teetering on 5 star status. He holds a slew of offers, but that group includes both Northwestern and Notre Dame.
We’ll throw Bell on the list as well, even though he’s more of a stretch, since he hails from Indiana.
Harrison is the most fascinating case to examine. He plays Defensive End, attends a public high school, hails from Ohio, and fit into either Category 2 or Category 3, holding Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Stanford offers.
In other words, Harrison looks like a better version of Ifeadi Odenigbo. Add to that the fact that Northwestern has been recruiting defensive linemen very successfully lately, and you can start trying to talk yourself into things like “A 5-Star recruit who lives 20 miles away from the Horseshoe is going to attend a college other than Ohio State”. Yeah…that sounds like a stretch.
The sensible yet idealistic thing to do is take all 4 players in Category 2 as a group. Stats indicate a likelihood that one of them will sign with Notre Dame/Northwestern. If that player exists, there’s about a 1 in 4 chance that he becomes a Wildcat!
Well, this was a fun winter diversion! Feel free to close your eyes and dream of a stacked Northwestern offensive line squaring off with a 5 star defensive lineman in practices out on the Lakefill!
It’ll be fun to revisit all of this next December when we sign most of our 2019 class. Will the math bear out? Or are there lies, damn lies…and Northwestern recruiting statistics?
The Epic Bizarreness of the Ed Kaihatsu First Midwest Bank Billboard and what it says about College Sports
The Ed Kaihatsu billboard is back up on Chicagoland expressways.
We’re referring to this Billboard, part of First Midwest Bank’s “Momentum Makers” campaign:
This billboard first made an appearance around Chicago last year, and now it’s back. We discussed it on the pod during the first go round, but the epic bizarreness of its existence deserves a more thorough examination.
You most likely do not know who Ed Kaihatsu is. More importantly, First Midwest Bank most likely does not know who Ed Kaihatsu is– other than that he is a part-time actor who was selected to be photographed for the “Momentum Makers” campaign.
Except, here’s the thing: Ed Kaihatsu actually IS a Momentum Maker: He’s one of the best assistant coaches in NCAA fencing history.
If you happen to be a member of the fencing community–as John’s wife Carly is–you are already nodding your head, but let’s clue everyone else in. Ed Kaihatsu was Northwestern’s assistant fencing coach from 1989 through 2014. This is a big deal, because Northwestern’s fencing program is really, really good.
Former Northwestern head coach Laurie Schiller famously won more than 1000 career matches, and Ed Kaihatsu rode shotgun for most of them. With Kaihatsu as either the top assistant or the Associate Head Coach, Northwestern finished in the Top 10 nationally for 15 consecutive seasons. During that stretch, the team was 512-76.
Consider this: The Northwestern Football Team has produced 12 All-Americans since 1970.
From 1998-2014, Kaihatsu personally coached FOURTEEN All-American Fencers–including, again, John’s wife Carly (All-American, Women’s Sabre, 2000). If we include all of the selections of fencers who made All-American more than once, Kaihatsu coached TWENTY-NINE All-Americans in 16 years.
How esteemed is Kaihatsu in collegiate fencing? How about this: In 2014, Kaihatsu won The Midwest Conference Coach Of The Year award AS AN ASSISTANT COACH. No assistant has ever won Coach of the Year in Big Ten Football or Basketball. It hadn’t happened in Midwest Conference Fencing, either, and it hasn’t happened again since.
The point, though, is not that Kaihatsu is a fantastic coach. The point is that his photo is plastered all over a major marketing campaign…and that photo was chosen for reasons that had NOTHING to do with any of the accolades we just listed off! First Midwest Bank just liked his face!
To put this in perspective, consider this face:
This is Bud Foster. Foster has been Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator since 1995. He has coached in a national championship game. He won the Broyles award in 2006 as the top assistant coach in college football. Like Kaihatsu, he has spurned outside opportunities to be a head coach at a top collegiate program.
If a bank put Foster’s face on a billboard, the average American would think nothing of it. Many casual sports fans, however, would think “I know that face…” Serious sports fans, college football fans, and anyone from the state of Virginia would immediately ask why Bud Foster’s face was on a random bank billboard. This…um…doesn’t appear to be happening with Kaihatsu.
Or how about this face:
This is Chris Dailey. Only diehard sports fans know her by name, but serious sports fans certainly recognize her face: She’s been Geno Auriemma’s #1 assistant on the UConn Women’s basketball team for 31 years. Still, despite Dailey’s unquestioned title as best assistant coach in college hoops, she’s basically anonymous in most of the America. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine her face popping up on a billboard and people thinking nothing of it.
Here’s the catch, though: If that billboard was displayed on Dailey’s home turf in CONNECTICUT, (as Kaihatsu’s billboard is displayed in Chicago) everything changes. Not only would everyone know exactly who Dailey was, everyone would assume she was paid a tidy sum to lend her celebrity to the advertising campaign. Again…that doesn’t seem to be happening with Kaihatsu.
Here’s a final exercise. Consider this face:
What if we told you that this face was displayed on billboards in North Carolina as part of a major BB&T Bank advertising campaign…but that this face was used only because the bank just happened to like the way it looked?
You’re most likely thinking, “This is a dumb example. Coach K is arguably the most famous head coach ever.”
Okay…but now, consider this face:
This man was Coach K’s top assistant as late as 2013. Like Kaihatsu, he was the #2 guy at a storied program led by a revered boss with more than 1000 wins. Now imagine seeing this face on billboards in Chicago.
You don’t have to imagine it, because Chris Collins’ face IS plastered on billboards around Chicago. We’re pretty sure HIS face wasn’t randomly selected.
Ultimately, of course, this whole situation underscores the giant chasm that exists between “Revenue Sports” and the rest of the NCAA. Only in a sport like fencing could Ed Kaihatsu appear on billboards, in a national ad campaign for Victorinox, and in films and tv shows, as anyone other than “Ed Kaihatsu. ” Heck, he even has an IMDB page.
For Kaihatsu, anonymity away from the fencing strip has clearly worked out well. We’re happy to shine a light (A) On what a renaissance man Kaihatsu is, and (B) On how damn good our fencing program is.
Still, this is one more weird example of the Haves vs the Have-Nots in College Sports. I mean, Tim freaking Beckman was once on billboards in Illinois, and it wasn’t because anyone liked the way his face looked.
We’re pretty sure Ed Kaihatsu is a better coach than Tim Beckman.
We’re pretty sure he’s a better FOOTBALL coach than Tim Beckman.
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.
#OleMiss coaches visit the nation’s top recruit, Rashan Gary @RashanGary33, Monday.
— Yancy Porter (@YancyPorter) January 19, 2016
–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.
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) January 21, 2016
–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.
@ElizabethPage4 yes. At Hyatt on Mew Jersey. We leave in hour for Oxford
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) January 21, 2016
He later tweets that he has arrived in Oxford and is happy to be home.
Been a great week of recruiting but so glad to see my girls and be back in Oxford for the weekend. And LOVED the call I just got. #SIPBOYZ16
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) January 22, 2016
–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.
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) January 24, 2016
–On 1/25/16, recruit Mykel Jones tweets a living room picture with Freeze. Jones lives in Patterson, Louisiana.
OV to ole miss this weekend🔵🔴 pic.twitter.com/UYy8PEi29J
— Mykel Jones (@Ocho_Era8) January 25, 2016
–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.
Going fishing for a big fish!! pic.twitter.com/JkTkYORBsF
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) January 27, 2016
–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: