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Michael Oher lawsuit connected to Vols: How involved was Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss?

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ESPN dropped a bombshell with its report that former NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher, subject of “The Blind Side,” is suing the Tuohy family. Oher alleges they never adopted him and duped him into a conservatorship so they could profit off his name.

For what it’s worth, Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian spoke with Sean Tuohy, who explained the reason behind the conservatorship. According to Tuohy, the NCAA said Oher could only attend the Ole Miss Rebels if he was part of the family, as Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy were huge boosters to the school.

However, Tuohy says they legally couldn’t adopt Oher over the age of 18, so a conservatorship was the only other option. Even if that’s true, it should enrage Tennessee Football fans everywhere. One glimpse at the move will tell you that.

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Nobody will debate that the movie was as friendly as it could possibly be to the Tuohy family. Even in the film, though, it was very clear that the Vols were making a huge recruiting impact on Oher, and there were certainly some suspicions that they funneled him to Ole Miss.

Consider, for a second, it’s 2004. You’re Michael Oher, a four-star, borderline five-star offensive lineman. It’s down to Tennessee Football, who is led by the most respected coach in the SEC at the time, a former offensive lineman himself in Phillip Fulmer, or Ole Miss, who just fired David Cutcliffe and hired a complete unknown in Ed Orgeron.

It’s also very clear that the Vols really want you, and they have a track record of churning out offensive linemen into the NFL. Why, under any circumstances, given those facts, would you ever choose to go to Ole Miss over Tennessee? It didn’t make sense then, it didn’t make sense in the movie, and it doesn’t make sense now.

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With this new information, though, the most charitable interpretation is that the Tuohys took a drastic step just to make sure a high-profile offensive lineman could go to their alma mater. The worst interpretation is obviously what the lawsuit is alleging.

All of this leads to another question: What did Hugh Freeze know? Getting Michael Oher to Briarcrest High School and churning him out into the NFL really helped Freeze launch his college career. Ole Miss suspiciously hired him to a ceremonial role in 2005, the year Oher committed.

One year after that, Orgeron named Freeze an on-field staff member. It’s not like Freeze is short on scandals, whether that be personal scandals or scandals in which he lied to players to further his own career. Did he know of this conservatorship if it was as punitive as Oher alleges? Was he trying to steer Oher to Ole Miss?

Everything about this Michael Oher saga was suspicious from the moment they took him in 20 years ago, and Vol fans should be as upset as any as to how it played out. However, what we really need to find out is what’s true and how much Freeze, Ole Miss and even Orgeron were involved.

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