Let's start with this being the single most embarrassing moment in the history of Ole Miss athletics.
Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, Hugh Freeze just dragged a venerable Southern institution down into some Kardashian-level slime.
Somewhere, the first gentleman of Ole Miss must be quietly weeping. That would be Archie Manning -- if only because his alma mater became a national punchline Thursday.
Manning is admired way beyond being a one-time great quarterback. He is a consummate Southern gentleman, a symbol of the Deep South from another era. His pride is their pride -- in Ole Miss, its people, the SEC, the region.
He also knows now that his coach called an escort service. At least once.
And that seems to be only the tip of the kudzu plant. By the time the Ole Miss administration got done wiping its hands of Freeze at a hastily called press conference Thursday, what was left of his character lie splattered all over Twitter.
"A pattern of personal misconduct," they called it. More than just an Ole Miss-dial that CBS Sports, among others, had reported minutes earlier. More than a one-minute call to a Tampa-based escort service that Freeze contended was a mistake.
Then Ole Miss admitted to doing something they should have done months ago, perhaps at the beginning of the ongoing NCAA investigation.
They checked Freeze's phone records. What they found was "a pattern of conduct not consistent with our expectations as the leader of our football program."
That's code for something way worse than a butt dial. Specifics were at a premium, probably because everyone from Oxford, Mississippi, to Indianapolis is lawyered up. Athletic director Ross Bjork wouldn't say if that pattern of behavior was calls -- plural -- to escort services.
Ole Miss leaders did stress that,, the school didn't owe him a dime. In fact, if he hadn't resigned, the "moral terpitude" contract clause would have been activated.
Translation: If Freeze didn't step down, he would have been fired for cause.
Yeah, I feel for Archie.
I also feel for John Grisham, who was probably just scooped by Ole Miss for his latest book pitch. Scandal! Ole Miss! Football! Lawyers! One of the great storytellers of our time got beaten out by reality.
In a matter of moments, that supposed butt dial turned into a Bible Belt bombshell.
It's a scandal on two levels. Ole Miss now suddenly finds itself vehemently defending their suddenly disgraced former coach, who is accused of eight NCAA major violations.
The same coach they just ran out of town.
If Ole Miss doesn't have faith in the investigation's central figure, why should the NCAA? Is there such a thing as institutional (out-of) control?
"A lot people call [Freeze] a fraud," one reporter asked Bjork. "What do you think about that?"
"None of us are perfect," the AD replied.
On that note, scores of coaches across the country smiled. They were sick of Freeze's self-righteous Bible-thumping. They were also sick of his recruiting methods.
Should we have been so blindsided on Thursday?
"You will soon learn this matter is totally unrelated to the NCAA case," Bjork said.
Oh yeah? I believe NCAA enforcement director Jon Duncan will have the last word on that one. If Houston Nutt's lawyer can get those phone records, why wouldn't the NCAA be interested? And what else might they reveal?
If you don't believe a third notice of allegations is possible for Ole Miss, please consider the.
Maybe the best thing that happened to Rebels football is that the NCAA is running out of folks to penalize. The school banned itself from a bowl, took away some scholarships.
It basically fired its coach.
Ole Miss will recover. Freeze will work again. They always do. Jim Tressel is the president of a university.
I'm not ready to say Art Briles will never coach again.
But for now, I feel most for Archie. At one proud Southern institution he is one proud Southern institution. This was the worst day in his alma mater's athletic history.
And the slime may be just beginning to ooze.