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Dabo Swinney and Hugh Freeze: Christian College Coaches Under Fire

No matter your personal beliefs, America’s founding values allow us to worship and share our individual faith. It was so important to our founding fathers, it was the first amendment to the Constitution that makes up the Bill of Rights.

Our nation was founded in part due to the persecution and harassment of English people that refused to follow the “Church of England.” Catholics and other traditional protestants were labeled as traitors and criminal laws were enacted against Puritan worship services.

So, religious persecution is nothing new in the world and it continues even today. Even in the world of college football.

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney will be facing off against the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11th with the national title on the line.

While both Coach Swinney and Saban are obviously great football coaches, Clemson’s Swinney expresses a personal faith that has put a bullseye on his back.

The Freedom From Religon Foundation has threatned lawsuit against Clemson due to Swinney’s out spoken Christianity.

According to the “Foundation,” Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that promotes Christianity and violates constitutional guidelines of the separation of church and state as stipulated in the Establishment Clause of the first amendment.

The Foundation is essentially saying that Swinney’s personal views as a high profile employee of the University borders on the official views of the University.

This is not a new fight or discussion. While the concept of a separation of Church and State is not expressly written in those exact words that was the intent of founding father Thomas Jefferson as a way to more easily explain the first amendment.

The key argument on both sides of this age old battle is do the kids or staff under Swinney’s control have the freedom to worship or not worship in their own personal way? And does Swinney’s faith and his expression of that faith somehow infringe on those under his control?

While I won’t be able to settle that argument here in this article, I do want to make the point that Swinney does have the personal constitutional right to express his faith. His right to do so should be supported by all Americans who enjoy the same right.

In the Deep South, high school football coaches are notorious for preaching in the locker room and using bible verses and biblical narratives in their motivational speeches.

If you have ever played high school football you probably had at least one coach like that and certainly in Mississippi, that is the rule rather than the exception.

But for some reason the idea of a college coach using these same lessons and stories of faith and struggle and perservance is seen as heresy or even hypocritical.

Ole Miss’ Coach Hugh Freeze is one of those preacher type high school coaches that happened to make the quantum leap to become a SEC head coach.

Photo by Kevin Cox - Getty Images

Photo by Kevin Cox – Getty Images

Freeze coached at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis for 13 years and is the son of one of those preacher type head coaches as Danny Freeze coached at Independence and Senatobia High schools in Mississippi. The younger Freeze no doubt grew up in that environment, learning from his father and other coaches and continues that model.

For Freeze, his faith is more than a model, it is even more important than football itself. He has said that football is just the platform, the opportunity, to impact the lives of people in the program.  Freeze said in a Washington Post article in 2014 that, “When my life comes to an end, how much does that scoreboard really matter?”

Given the fact that Freeze hold many of the same thoughts we all do as football fans in the South, why does his words cause so much concern.

I am willing to bet if anyone else said that same sentence, you would absolutely agree. But because a college football coach says it, there is some hidden sinister agenda behind his words.

As you would expect, rival fan bases and blog posts highlight this minority opinion.

Sage writer “DawgSmack” posts this gem from Maroon and White Nation that says Hugh Freeze’s Gospel is actually a Gospel of Hate.

The manager of MSU fan blog 3rdand57 had some interesting twitter posts recently that I think really highlights this thought that somehow big time college football coaches are not allowed or are incapable of having “core values” without lying or fabricating their faith.

beastman freeze faith invert

I understand rival fans are irrational but wow, when you stand back from a distance, it is really disheartening that fellow Christians can stand by and toss accusations like this without recognizing that we all struggle with faith.

We all fall short of the ideal. We are all hypocrites in that way and saying someone else is not perfect is holding a football coach up to a weirdly high standard that they wouldn’t hold themselves to.

Will Hugh Freeze make mistakes in his life, of course. Will God help Dabo Swinney beat the “evil” Nick Saban Alabama empire?  I hope my God has more to do on that Monday.

We need to stand with other men who are brave enough to take a stand and in the heat of the national media spotlight make their beliefs known.  Why would anyone work for a boss that only cares about winning and winning only?

Because at the end of our days, the scoreboard and the color of our jacket wont matter.

You don’t have to be a fan of Ole Miss or Clemson to appreciate men like Hugh Freeze and Dabo Swinney.

ole miss hate

EGGBOWL 2015: Tailgating at Starkville – A Primer for Ole Miss Fans

So you want to see Ole Miss play in Starkville this year do ya?  Are you sure?  Is it really that important?

Fine.  I won’t stop you, but here are five things you need to know before you make the trek to the “Town that fun forgot.”

fresh as hail

1.  Bring your own food and drinks

SEC football tailgates are nationally known for having ridiculous spreads of food, drink and hospitality.  Mississippi State does not fit in that mold.  Here you will find mostly spreads of hoop cheese and crackers (made on campus) and at a really fancy tent you might find stuffed deer meat or subway catering.

I would recommend you bring your own food and nice bottle of liquor or wine.  Otherwise you will be stuck drinking cheap lite beer if you are lucky enough to find a bulldog willing to share.

milk cow msu

2.  Don’t dress up too much

One thing I can say about MSU fans, is they are not pretentious.  Comfort over fashion is the rule here and this late in the year with possible freezing temps and precipitation, expect to see more camouflage hunting gear than team colors.

If you wear slacks and or a sports jacket or a scarf you will be a dead give away that you are not “from around here.”  You might as well wear a #10 Chad Kelly jersey with a target on the back of your head.

bitch im a dawg

3.  Bring ear plugs

Mississippi State has worked hard over the last 10-15 years to upgrade their gameday experience.  Ole Miss fans may find their pre-game festivities very familiar.  That is because they have actually carbon copied the Ole Miss pre-game.

They built a miniature version of The Grove and called it the Junction.  They have the players walk through a crowd of fans just like the Walk of Champions (They call it the Bulldog Walk).  They even have a fairly new cheer called Maroon and White that ends with a hint of profanity, just like our own Hotty Toddy cheer.

But the one thing State has that no one would envy is the fan’s tradition of ringing cow bells.  How this got started or why it is continued is a head shaking wonder.

Just understand it is annoying , so be prepared.

cowbell girl

4.  Have a few deer hunting stories

Don’t be afraid to interact with the natives.  If you are dressed comfortably or maybe you have a few friends that are MSU fans, feel free to have a seat with the dogs and enjoy the day.

Make them feel comfortable by talking about deer hunting or what you planted in the winter garden.  Even if you don’t do either of those things, you will be more easily accepted.

Talking about business or stock options is another dead give away you are a Ole Miss fan.

stingray bull

5.  Get out of town as fast as possible after you win (or lose) in Starkville.

The MSU fan base is very unpredictable.  They are as likely to bail before halftime as they are willing to stand in the middle of the street after the game and swat at people with their cowbell like a country boy battle sword.

No matter the outcome, my best advice is to just have your things gathered up and ready to bolt to the car right after the game.

You can enjoy gloating from a distance for the next 365 days until the next Battle of the Golden Egg.

msu mad

 

 

egg bowl 2015 1

HAS THE EGG BOWL RIVALRY GOTTEN OUT OF HAND?

(This article originally featured in RebelNationMagazine – Pick up a copy at your local magazine rack!)

The “Battle for the Golden Egg” has always been a hotly contested battle between two bitter rivals. Even if the game rarely has wide ranging implications, in the state of Mississippi it is a cherished tradition.

The game has only decided a division or conference champion a handful of times in it 100 plus years in existence. Most years, the egg-shaped trophy is the only reward for a long, hard-fought season.

The most successful coaches at each school found a way to win the egg bowl. Playing down the importance of this game or overlooking the in-state rival is not advised. That is, If you plan to stick around very long.

As fans, we always hoped and prayed that one day this game might mean something. It’s natural to feel a little jealous of our neighbors to the East in Alabama where the game always seems to have larger stakes. They certainly have a larger national media draw.

The Iron Bowl has only been supplanted by the Egg Bowl once on the TV broadcast pecking order and that was last year due to licensing issues because CBS was unable to televise a sixth Alabama game, or they probably would have.

In the last 20 years, the winner of the Iron Bowl has been split 11-10 in favor of Auburn. Alabama has six SEC western division titles over that time with three national titles. Auburn has five divisional titles and 1 national title with one undefeated season not resulting in a national title for Auburn (2004).

In the Egg Bowl in the last 20 years, the games are split evenly 10 to 10.  There has only been 1 divisional champion between the teams and neither Mississippi team has gotten to the promised land of a national champion in a long, long time.

With the addition of Dan Mullen over the last few years, we have seen a glimpse of the high stakes poker that is normally reserved for the state of Alabama.

Dan Mullen successfully jump-started what was a dead rivalry in 2009 by pulling out all the stops. He put the entire focus of his program on winning the Egg Bowl. He claimed Mississippi as “Our State” for MSU fans, refused to call Ole Miss by their name and has successful stirred up strong emotions for State fans to Iron Bowl levels and beyond.

Since 2009, the Egg Bowl is now fought year round, on billboards and in the office. You see a battle for the best tailgating area, you see a battle for who can make the best post game video, a battle for who has the most students, best cheerleaders, etc.

The Bulldogs were frothing at the mouth over Dan Mullen’s first three wins in the series, but since 2012 Freeze has flipped the script on him and the despair and negativity of MSU fans are making the rivalry almost unbearable.

It’s not really enjoyable to attend the Egg Bowl in Starkville anymore, not that we ever liked going to a game at MSU but watching the games were so much fun in the 80’s and 90’s, no matter where the games were played.

Now, as an Ole Miss fan you are more likely to get in a fight defending your wife in Starkville rather than Baton Rouge.

The biggest difference in the Egg Bowl rivalry compared to the Iron Bowl rivalry and most other in-state rivalries is there is truly a lack of respect between the teams and it starts at the top. Dan Mullen’s antics when he began coaching at State were sophomoric and unprofessional which is fine and even could be seen as funny except the MSU fans take that as a license to take an even lower step.

In Alabama, the “smack” talk is tempered with the fact that either team can win the game, no matter the record. They respect each other’s talent and accomplishments and the game is more a shared event by the fans. The way things used to be here.

In Mississippi, the State fans and MSU-aligned media don’t even extend platitudes to Ole Miss. Even though Mullen has lost two of the last three games, Freeze is still referred to as a women’s high school basketball coach. NCAA sanctions are hoped and wished for by a fan base that can’t seem to beat Ole Miss in recruiting.

The absolute worst indication of where this rivalry is headed is last year’s anonymous threat to damaging the trees in the grove.

Last November, prior to the Egg Bowl in Oxford, the University Police department alerted the FBI to a hand written note that was signed, “Hail State/Go To Hell TSUN,” and threatened damage to the shrubs and trees on the Ole Miss campus.

According to University news reports the letter read: “What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday ain’t nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be the most pretty campus next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the Grove.”

The childish threat ended with the sentence, “Can’t stop us.”

UPD Police chief Calvin Sellers reminded everyone of reality. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to damage a landmark for which all Mississippian’s take great pride.”

While Mullen and the MSU fans are busy fighting Ole Miss off the field, Hugh Freeze takes the right approach by having a professional attitude and wins the game on the field.

Let’s get this rivalry back to the point where we can look each other in the eye, shake hands like a man and respect our opponents, win or lose.

Photo via Sports Illustrated

Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen Should Never Leave Mississippi

Mississippi football has played second fiddle (or maybe last fiddle) in the SEC since Johnny Vaught hung up his whistle over 40 years ago.  Coach Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings made sure Alabama football was the king in SEC play in the 80s and 90s, and more recently; Nick Saban and Les Miles have kept the under-dogs at bay.

Reports hint that all this may soon change and Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen could be in a prime position to take over the void left by such legendary head coaches.

After starting the season on a red-hot 7-0 start the wheels have fallen off the Leonard Fornette train and fans have had enough of the one-dimensional offense in Baton Rouge.

Nick Saban, long considered the best “hired gun” in college football is again being courted by Texas and the NFL.

The two young coaches in Mississippi are primed to take a leap forward should Saban and Miles move on from their current seats.

As dominate as the LSU and Alabama programs have been through the years, they are not guaranteed success.  You still have to have the right coach to win even at the school that Forrest Gump built.

Ask Mike Shula or Dennis Franchione about how easy it is to win in Tuscaloosa.  Gerry Dinardo and Curly Hallman had equal struggles with the recruiting juggernaut that is LSU.

The odds of replacing the win totals of Saban and Miles would be quite a gamble for their respective athletic directors.

Freeze and Mullen suddenly have options to consider beyond taking the next step to a bigger football program.

They could possibly stay in Mississippi and become the next big football programs if Bama and LSU struggle for a few years finding the man to replace the man.

Ole Miss and State are recruiting better than ever before and if Freeze and Mullen are some of the better known coaching names in the SEC west in the future, look for that to improve even more.

The difference between winning 10-11 games every year as opposed to winning 8-9 games every year is handling LSU and Alabama.

I hope Freeze and Mullen realize they have a chance to fulfill any goal they could ever want right here in the state of Mississippi.

Evan Engram celebrates his TD against Texas A&M - Photo by @olemisspix

Ole Miss’ Biggest Battle is Ole Miss

The Rebels had a great bounce back game at home Saturday night against #15 Texas A&M. After a 23-3 win that wasn’t ever close, head Coach Hugh Freeze attributed the quick turn-around to his players.

“During adversity in life you find out a lot about people. We challenged our kids this week.  If you play with passion and love for 60 minutes that will be good enough at the end of the day.  I am extremely proud of our kids and our coaches.”

Texas A&M had to face their first SEC road game against the vaunted Ole Miss landsharks, who even without Robert Nkemdiche (held out due to a concussion last week), were suffocating from the start.

Aggie QB Kyle Allen started the game only completing 1 of his first 13 passes and that was for a negative gain.

In an offense that relies on the pass to open up the run, Kevin Sumlin’s bunch only mustered 58 yards on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, Ole Miss had their best rushing day of the year in SEC games with 230; the highest total for Ole Miss since the eggbowl last year with 205 against the bulldogs.

Being able to run the ball and stop the run have always been keys to winning in the SEC and this Ole Miss team in no different.

If Ole Miss wants to keep rolling through the SEC and have a chance at winning a championship, they have to control how they play.

Playing well consistently has been a struggle at times recently, dropping games at Florida and at Memphis and not looking very good in either loss.

Senior CJ Johnson was back on the field this week after a knee injury and he said in postgame, the team just needs to get back to having fun.

“One of the main things we tried to go back to this week was just having fun. We wanted to make sure everyone was having fun and playing loose.  We also wanted to make sure we pay attention to detail.  It goes to show that when we play with that kind of emotion and energy, how good we are.”

Mike Hilton - Photo by @Olemisspix

Mike Hilton – Photo by @Olemisspix

Ole Miss finds themselves right back at the top of the division behind LSU who will have to face Ole Miss in Oxford in four weeks.

A favorable schedule and the early win over Alabama has Ole Miss in control of their own destiny. In order for the Rebels to fulfill their goals, they have to control themselves.

Getting pressure on the QB, tackling well, and bringing the right energy are all important; but believing they can win is the most important.

It’s going to be up to leaders like Tunsil, the Nkemdiche’s and CJ Johnson to make sure they finish the job.