The rot in college football is evident again in Auburn University’s hiring of Hugh Freeze, a scandal-ridden cheater and liar, as its new head coach.
Columnist Dan Wetzel reminds us of the terrible particulars of Freeze’s past behavior. The short version is that while at the University of Mississippi, he oversaw rampant cheating that included forbidden payments and benefits to recruits and fraudulent academic eligibility submissions, direct lying to his players to keep them from transferring to a better situation, defamatory lies blaming the infractions on former coach Houston Nutt, and a scandal involving multiple paid “escorts.”
Still, who can begrudge someone a little lying, cheating, defamation, and paid womanizing, in ways that hobbled a former school’s program for years, when there are future football games to be won?
By hiring Freeze, Auburn emphatically rejects the idea that coaches are educators, that a major purpose of collegiate athletics is character formation, and that ethics are at all important. Then again, Auburn already made that clear several years ago when it hired Bruce Pearl as its basketball coach despite Pearl committing multiple NCAA infractions, lying about it, and hiding a player’s violation of the school’s substance-abuse policy. Pearl’s sins didn’t sink to the level of Freeze’s, but hiring him apparently gave Auburn practice at treating ethics as irrelevant.
In the greater scheme of things, bringing Freeze to “The Plains” of Auburn is just one more example of the rot pervasive in big-time college sports. Still, because his abuses were so multi-faceted, one would at least think schools from that same athletic conference would shy away from him, even if other college conferences decided a record of cheating and lying is a nothingburger. If so, one would think wrongly. Instead, it gives Auburn a chance to show Southeastern Conference rival Ole Miss what the Rebels gave up by firing the lowlife coach.
And also to show the abject putrefaction in Auburn’s standards.
Somewhere, somehow, American society needs to stop defining deviancy down. As former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it in his famous essay of that name, it is past time to arrest “the manifest decline of the American civic order.” Meanwhile, here’s hoping Auburn and Freeze lose every game next year.