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Hugh Freeze knows a thing or two about the role that money plays in college football recruiting. The first-year head coach at Auburn has a lot of experience in paying players under-the-table, but the NIL era allows it to be done through legal practices.
Freeze understands the importance of NIL funds. Where other coaches may not be as willing to speak openly about the direct tie between financial opportunity and college decisions, he is and he did.
“There’s no running from it, the On To Victory NIL and and NIL in itself is a factor in recruiting,” he said.
In Freeze’s first press conference after the Early Signing Period, he called Tigers fans and boosters to arms. The 53-year-old wants as much money to be pumped into collectives as possible.
There is absolutely no question about it that this climate that we’re in today that the NIL is important and we need the Auburn family to support our On To Victory Collective. We need them to support it at a high high level if we truly want to compete in this level, because in this conference there’s (sic) a lot of schools that are well, well organized.— Hugh Freeze issuing a call to arms to the Auburn family
Obviously, that could go unsaid. Every single coach in the country wants more money for both their program and NIL collectives.
Hugh Freeze doesn’t want money to be the driving force.
But at the same time, Freeze wants the decision to be made without money as the driving factor.
I have said in every home and I’ll say it here, I don’t think that should be a primary reason a young man should chooses a school. In some homes that is the case, they’re choosing it because of that, I think that’s a bad reason to choose a school that you’re banking your whole future on your development at.— Hugh Freeze on the driving force behind college decisions
While Freeze wants recruits to choose a school based on fit, he understands that asking a high school or college student to ignore extremely lucrative opportunities is a difficult task. That’s where NIL enters the picture.
But I think it’s part of the equation and if everything is fair and equitable to a family from the collective and the environment and the relationships and you know that your heart wants to be somewhere, that should be 75% of it. Then you have an opportunity to come and create more value for yourself by the way you perform, which if you’re in the right environment we’re all going to do better. And sometimes I think chasing money alone is a bad practice and I’m a big believer that you chase people and you chase places.— Hugh Freeze on how he approaches recruiting in the modern era
Freeze has always made culture and player development his thing. He wants his players to buy in to his goals and values. He wants his players to be prepared for life, not just football.
However, money will always help to sweeten the deal. That’s undeniable and Freeze knows that.
Auburn’s NIL collective continues to evolve.
Name, Image and Likeness has only been a thing for about 18 months. It’s still brand new.
There are still a lot of issues and kinks that need to be worked out— both on a national and local level. Collectives are trying to figure out what works. Coaches are trying to navigate their roles, which are not tied to the NIL efforts. They cannot be involved.
That makes things tricky, which is why Freeze and Auburn will continue to work alongside collectives wherever legal to get the best practices in order.
And I enjoyed working with them, thought Brett, and Jason, and those guys they were standing ready to assist and help and try to figure out the best practice of going about it. And there’s a learning curve, we’ll have some meetings, I’m sure in the future, with our administration and them and just try to make sure man here’s the best practice, here’s the best plan, and this is what’s best and how to operate. But there is no doubt that it is an important factor.— Hugh Freeze on how to operate within the new NIL landscape
Between the Early Signing Period and transfer portal, Auburn currently holds the No. 19-ranked signing class in the country. Hugh Freeze is a great recruiter and his first class with the Tigers could make a massive splash over the next few months.