Sin and scandal at Ole Miss: This is what happens when outspoken Christian coach calls escort service

Jesus. God. Church. Faith.

Read ESPN's in-depth, behind-the-scenes account of the Ole Miss football coach's resignation — titled "How a phone call to an escort service led to Hugh Freeze's downfall" — and you won't come across any of the above words.

"Sin," too, is missing from ESPN's 2,400-plus words.

Granted, nobody expects a deep exploration of theology by ESPN. Right? The fact that the story focuses on NCAA football is certainly expected and appropriate.

But — and this is a big "but" — it's difficult to give readers a full picture of Freeze and just how far his reputation has plunged without mentioning his outspoken Christianity. More on that in a moment.

First, though, ESPN's dramatic opening provides important background:

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The man who helped take down Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze is a lifelong Mississippi State fan who attended his first Bulldogs game 37 years ago and has the university's logo tattooed on his left hand.
But he insists he never set out to bring down the Rebels and their coach.
It just kind of happened that way.
When Steve Robertson was sifting through Freeze's phone records on July 5 as part of his research for an upcoming book he's writing, he discovered phone calls he expected to see. There were mostly calls to recruits and assistant coaches.
But when Robertson saw a phone number with a 313 area code, he was stunned by what he discovered in a Google search. A call made on Jan. 19, 2016, lasting one minute, was made to a number connected with several advertisements for female escorts. Robertson then asked his wife to read him the telephone number again to make sure it was correct. The escort service ads came up again.
Robertson called Thomas Mars, an attorney who is representing former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt in his defamation lawsuit against Ole Miss. Mars had been introduced to Robertson through a third party he found while doing online research into Nutt's case. They've since developed a close working relationship, talking on the phone several times a day and sharing what they found in their investigations.
"He asked me to fill in some blanks," Robertson said.
When Robertson told Mars to enter the phone number in Google, Mars was silent for nearly a minute before yelling an expletive in excitement.
Ole Miss had unwittingly provided information that would lead to Freeze's resignation.

The rest of the story is worth a read if you have time before finishing the rest of this post.

But the closest the piece gets to any religion is a mention of "Sunday school" — and not the kind at my church:

In 2014, Mississippi State was ranked No. 1 in the AP poll and Ole Miss was No. 3 after eight weeks of the season. Ever since, the usual high level of vitriol in the rivalry seems to have been taken to another level.
As one SEC power broker puts it: "It makes Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama look like Sunday school." Robertson puts it another way: "It's the two runt puppies in the SEC West fighting for the hind teat. When you finally get locked on that hind teat, you do whatever you have to do to stay there, even if the other guy has to starve."

The first part of Isaiah 32:12 says, in the King James Version, "They shall lament for the teats." However, I'm not certain that's a reference to SEC football.

But seriously ... where can ghostbusting readers find better coverage of the faith angle?

It's probably no surprise that Baptist Press is on top of the story:

OXFORD, Miss. (BP) -- The forced resignation of Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze -- an outspoken follower of Jesus -- amid what the university described as "moral turpitude" has left believers disappointed and expressing hope for repentance.
"I truly believe that [Freeze] is a good man," said Mississippi pastor Clarence Cooper, a friend of Freeze's for two decades. "And he has been overtaken with a fault. In his text to me was, 'I love you. Please pray for me. Please stand by me and pray for my family.'"
Freeze, a regular speaker at churches and conferences whose Twitter account is filled with Christian references, resigned July 20 after the university discovered a "pattern of personal misconduct inconsistent with the standards we expect from the leader of our football team," Chancellor Jeff Vitter said according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

And later in the Baptist Press report:

Cooper, pastor of Brandon (Miss.) Baptist Church, told Baptist Press Freeze seems to have demonstrated initial fruit of repentance.
Freeze is seeking "to get his life back together again, get his mind clear and get things right between him and the Lord," Cooper said.
A former Mississippi Baptist Convention president, Cooper said Freeze is not "a fake" when it comes to his Christianity.
"The closer a man is to God, the greater the temptations and the pressures are," Cooper said.
Pinelake Church, the multisite Southern Baptist congregation Freeze and his family attend, said it will help the Freezes through this difficult season of life.
"The Freeze family is a part of our Pinelake Church family," the church told BP in a statement. "We want to honor their privacy during this time. As a church, we are called to love and shepherd people from a biblical perspective, no matter their position. Our prayers are with the Freeze family."

Readers can judge for themselves whether Freeze is truly repentant or only sorry that he got caught. And, of course, Christians believe God is the real judge. 

My point is not that ESPN should have produced the same kind of report as Baptist Press, or even one close to it. I'm simply noting that Freeze's professed faith is an important element of the story and that — with even a few sentences along those lines — ESPN could have added valuable context to its larger coverage.

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