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The SEC Hiring Freeze has been lifted as Auburn proceeded with the hiring of Hugh Freeze on Monday.
It is a match made in baggage claim heaven.
Auburn has a history of baggage that would descend most jumbo jets. There have been NCAA investigations, booster monsters clutching everything, and coaching hiring and firing controversies that could make a juicy reality series. And Auburn has a bad fiscal habit of paying a myriad of coaches buyout money years after they have left.
Freeze, meanwhile, has been a walking vet machine since his days at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis from 1995-2004. Auburn wanted to introduce him as coach Sunday. But understandable backlash from various sources led to a two-minute vetting drill by Auburn athletic director John Cohen the last two days.
There was much to vet. Should Auburn one day want to fire Freeze, which seems to be an inevitable practice on The Plains, it will not have to make up something salacious. Auburn power people fabricated such a story about coach Bryan Harsin after the 2021 season to try and fire him then. It didn’t work. Harsin survived that coup until he kept losing this season and was fired last Halloween. He will be paid $15 million not to coach at Auburn.
Auburn Had Much To Vet With Hugh Freeze
This is the world you are entering, Hugh.
While at Briarcrest, Freeze reportedly instructed a female student to change out of a banned, Grateful Dead T-shirt, because it represented drugs. There was nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that she said Freeze asked her to change tops in his office. That represents something more deviant entirely.
Freeze coached future NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher at Briarcrest and was depicted in the 2009 movie “Blind Side.” And apparently Auburn is turning a blind eye to his “pattern of personal misconduct,” which was one of the reasons he was fired at Ole Miss in 2017. Phone records showed Freeze used a university cellular phone to call escort services multiple times.
There were also NCAA recruiting violations that included Ole Miss employees and boosters arranging voluminous “impermissible benefits” for players. These included car loans, cash and advanced tutoring for college entrance exams. Sentencing saw the NCAA take away 28 wins on the field by Freeze’s Rebels from 2012 through 2016.
The NCAA slapped Freeze’s program with three years of probation, a two-year postseason ban and four-year ban on some scholarships. And this is apparently OK for the people at Auburn making the decisions.
Hugh Freeze Has Won Everywhere
Freeze, 53, resurfaced after the 2018 season as the head coach at Liberty, a FBS independent in Lynchburg, Virginia. As has been the case at all his stops, he won – at Briarcrest, at Lambuth, at Arkansas State and at Ole Miss.
His first Liberty team went 8-5 and won in its first bowl appearance in history at the aptly named Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida. He found the Cure again after a 10-1 season in 2020 before going 8-5 last season. He was 8-4 this year with a 21-19 upset at Arkansas.
But Freeze drew more controversy upon himself at Liberty with some questionable direct messages on Twitter to a female Liberty student who was the victim of a sexual assault.
Auburn says it has done all its due diligence with the above after courting Freeze for weeks just in case Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin turned Auburn down, which is what happened. Freeze is a poor man’s, or desperate school’s, Kiffin.
But what Auburn’s powers that be probably will be unable to stop vetting about from now until next November is something else in Freeze’s work history. In his third and fourth seasons at Ole Miss in 2014 and ’15, he beat Alabama, 23-17, in Oxford, and, 43-37, in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama and coach Nick Saban have lost to no one in back-to-back seasons since. And it only happened once before Ole Miss – to LSU in 2010 and ’11. Auburn has not beaten Alabama in back-to-back seasons since 2006 and ’07. The NCAA took Ole Miss’ two wins over Alabama away along with the other 26 for recruiting violations.
Auburn And Hugh Freeze Deserve One Another
But Ole Miss won on the field with Freeze, regardless of what he did off the field. This is why Auburn hired him. Auburn’s power brokers do not care about Freeze’s baggage, though many of the Auburn fans do.
Freeze and his wife and three daughters have had to suffer through public humiliation and embarrassment since the story broke of his use of escort services five years ago. He has done his time. He has repented.
What we do not know is if he has stopped his deviant behavior, or just found a smarter way to keep it secret.
In the end, Auburn and Freeze deserve one another.
Auburn had to settle for Freeze because it couldn’t get Kiffin. And the best Freeze, who has been a hot name in coaching searches for years now but never hired, could probably ever do with his priors was a zoo like Auburn.
I now pronounce Auburn and Hugh Freeze married. You may kiss the baggage.