By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – For some, the Ole Miss-Mississippi State football rivalry is a year-long event.
That isn’t the case for Hugh Freeze, who is about to participate in the game as the Rebels’ head coach for the first time.
At his weekly news conference Monday, Freeze said he did not mention Mississippi State to his players until Sunday when the Rebels had returned from Baton Rouge after an emotional 41-35 loss to then-No. 8 LSU.
“I have family members on the other side,” Freeze said. “We have great respect for them, and we want to beat them as badly as they want to beat us. I understand the impact it has on our program and the people of the state.”
Along those lines Freeze wants to remove as many distractions as possible – including this newspaper and others – for players who suddenly have more time on their hands during the Thanksgiving holiday break.
Before Freeze took the podium Monday, Kyle Campbell, the school’s assistant athletics director for media and public relations, announced that all practices would be closed and that there would be no player interviews.
Before Freeze left, a compromise was reached, and selected players will be made available this week, he said.
Freeze this season has maintained one of the more open media policies of SEC schools. Media can view the first four periods of practice, and most players are available by request at the Monday press conference or after practice.
Assistant coaches are also available during interview times, which is not the case at all schools.
Freeze said he considered the media ban because he didn’t want his players to say something to stoke the rivalry flames or to say something with good intentions that could be received the wrong way.
When he was hired as Ole Miss coach last December, Freeze, a native of Independence, had this to say regarding the MSU series at his introduction press conference: “It is not big, it is paramount. I have great respect of the job he (Dan Mullen) has done there. I take nothing away from that job, but being raised here I have a quite good understanding of what that game means.
“The administration does not have to tell me that. I get it. It is about us regaining the momentum.”
Almost a year later, he coaches a team that many believe has over-achieved but must still win one game to qualify for postseason.
“I can’t wait for Saturday,” Freeze said. “I’m trying not to be anxious, but it’s difficult to fight it. There’s a lot riding on this game.”