Last week we highlighted a haunted ESPN story on "How a phone call to an escort service led to Hugh Freeze's downfall."
We pointed out the glaring omission of certain words from the in-depth piece on the Ole Miss football coach's resignation.
Words such as Jesus, God, church and faith.
Who is Hugh Freeze?
As we previously noted, it's impossible to answer that question without delving into his professed faith. Kudos to USA Today for recognizing that.
The religion angle figures up high — and throughout — the national newspaper's report:
OXFORD, Miss. — Hugh Freeze stood outside his house near a muscular dog earlier this week when a reporter approached.
“You better watch this dog,’’ Freeze said, and a moment later he added, “I can control him.’’
But less than two weeks after he abruptly resigned as head football coach at the University of Mississippi, the narrative of the once-charmed coach has spun beyond control.
Freeze, 47, was the devout Christian who beat Nick Saban and Alabama two years in a row, built a team that climbed to No. 3 in the polls and, at least in the eyes of the Ole Miss faithful, could do little wrong. A husband and father of three daughters, he often tweeted Bible verses or religious words of inspiration.
Another side has emerged, though. Before he resigned on July 20, Freeze was under scrutiny for alleged recruiting violations. Ole Miss has self-imposed several penalties, including a postseason ban, and an NCAA investigation continues.
His downfall was ultimately the result of what Ole Miss officials called a "pattern of personal misconduct," and the revelation that a phone call from Freeze's university-issued cell phone had been made to a number associated with a female escort.
One thing that I forgot (thank you, USA Today, for reminding me) is that Freeze is the former Christian high school coach in Memphis, Tenn., who figures in The Blind Side movie starring Sandra Bullock. USA Today quotes three women who say Freeze "made them feel uncomfortable with inappropriate behavior" in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Through an attorney, he denies it. The school also says it was unaware of any wrongdoing.
I'll mainly steer clear of that angle and focus on USA Today's welcomed willingness to explore the faith angle:
Freeze has relied on his religion in difficult times and in the best of times, which has made his tumble even more confusing for some around Oxford.
"People don’t know what to believe about a person anymore," said Kyle Cole, a campus minister at Ole Miss and a senior staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ International. "I’ve been doing campus ministry for 12 years. I’ve seen men fall in a lot of different ways.
“They keep asking me what I think about Coach Freeze. Honestly, I’m not prepared to answer that yet.”
And at the end, the paper quotes a bartender who suggests — simply — "He's human."
Nice job, USA Today.
Hey ESPN, see how easy that was?