Fennelly: Is Charlie Strong the anti-Freeze?

Hugh Freeze leaves an intriguing opening at Ole Miss.
Hugh Freeze leaves an intriguing opening at Ole Miss.
Published Jul. 22, 2017

The Hugh Sleaze era at Ole Mess is over.

Hugh Freeze resigned as head football coach Thursday to avoid being fired by Mississippi school officials. For those of you who had NCAA violations and investigations in the pool, you were wrong. Nor was the reason the defamation lawsuit filed against the school by former Rebels coach Houston Nutt. Might have been eventually, but it wasn't what brought Freeze down.

Rather, it was Lena.

For those of us playing at home, a Google search reveals that "Lena" was the name attached to a phone number reportedly dialed by Freeze, who is married with three children, on a university-issued cellphone. The number is used to help advertise websites for a female escort service. The number is no longer in service.

Wait — it's a Tampa-based escort service.

The City of Light strikes again.

There's more to this local hook, in a roundabout way. Mind you, not in a naughty way, but a college football way. And that brings us to the Tampa-based head coach.

USF fans' heads are exploding over Bulls coach Charlie Strong being mentioned as a possible successor to Freeze.

Strong hasn't coached a game for USF. He hasn't even inflated the footballs for Monday's first preseason practice.

This is madness. Strong isn't going anywhere. No way.

At least this season.

I bet if Lane Kiffin down at Florida Atlantic received a call from Ole Miss, he'd be there yesterday. On Friday he was already following four Ole Miss-related Twitter accounts. Move over Lena, here comes Lane.

Let us pause to reflect on the Sunshine State, where coaches' careers go to live and die and live again. Remember 2003, when sleazy Mike Price lost his gig at Alabama before he ever coached a game by being sighted in a Pensacola strip club and running up $1,000 in hotel room service with an unidentified woman who was not Price's wife? All roads and folded hundred-dollar bills lead to Florida.

And let us reflect on the Sunshine State, safety net for coaches trying to kick their careers back into gear. George O'Leary found success at UCF after fudging his resume for the Notre Dame job. It took years, but Butch Davis went from being fired amid an academic scandal at North Carolina to head coach at Florida International.

Strong is generally considered to be clean as a whistle. But the Ole Miss chatter, though crazed, reminds us that we just don't know how long he'll be around.

Strong was a great hire by USF. Consider his work at Louisville and the top-notch defenses he fielded at Florida. But what if USF plays lights-out, even runs the table in Strong's first season? Ignore this Ole Mess nonsense but there will be Charlie suitors.

That's the crazed world of college football. USF and its fans accepted that, or should have, when Strong was hired. He is going to be mentioned when big jobs come open. With any kind of success this season, people will be phoning Tampa. And they won't be asking for Lena.