Auburn Hiring Hugh Freeze, Giving The Former Ole Miss Coach A Shot At SEC Redemption

Hugh Freeze is heading back to the SEC, taking the head coaching job at Auburn, OutKick has learned. There were ongoing talks with Freeze, even as athletic director John Cohen was waiting on word from Lane Kiffin. The Auburn contingent quickly moved to Freeze over the past 72 hours.

It has been a whirlwind week for Auburn, with the school thinking Kiffin would accept the job. But once Kiffin made it clear he wouldn't be leaving Oxford, the Tigers moved quickly to get Freeze lined up for the job. The two sides were in constant contact regarding the position, with Freeze making it very clear that he wanted the Auburn job.

Athletic Director John Cohen said the following in regards to hiring Freeze.

"After a thoughtful, thorough, and well-vetted search, we ended where we started, with Hugh Freeze,” Cohen said. “Of all the candidates we considered, Hugh was the best fit. Fit has several meanings, but the most important factors were student-athlete development, football strategy, recruiting and SEC experience.”

The deal is set to be for six years, with an average salary of $6.5 Million. There will be a bonus structure, along with other incentives.

Auburn officials spent the last two days further vetting Freeze, which is the reason for this dragging out a bit longer than some folks would have wanted. There was online backlash when reports emerged about Freeze potentially getting the job, but people at Auburn feel they have done their due diligence.

Hugh Freeze Comments On Accepting Auburn Job

Hugh Freeze had the following to say about taking the Auburn job, acknowledging interim head coach Carnell Williams.

"First, I want to acknowledge Cadillac Williams for the incredible job he did as interim head coach. The impact he made is immeasurable and cannot be overstated,” Freeze said. “Secondly, Auburn is one of the preeminent programs in college football and I’m very appreciative of President Roberts and John Cohen for this opportunity at Auburn."

"I’ve been fortunate to witness first-hand how special Auburn is during my time as a head coach in the SEC and while visiting my daughter Jordan who attended Auburn and currently lives in the community," Freeze added. "I can’t wait to work with our student-athletes and the Auburn family to bring championships back to the Plains.”

Freeze has shown he can win in the SEC, having done it at Ole Miss. He led the Rebels to back-to back nine win seasons, before having the wins vacated, Freeze was 39-25 in Oxford. He also defeating Nick Saban and Alabama in consecutive years.

I spoke with one Power-5 athletic director recently about hiring coaches with public ‘baggage,’ while others go through the vetting process. Sometimes it comes down to taking a chance. 

“We all have this mindset where we have to decide how much of a chance do we want to take on a coach that has some baggage,” the AD said. “But, if the public knew some of the things we find our from search firms during our vetting processes of potential hires, they might think differently of Freeze or any other coach with a public past.”

Freeze was accused of 15 Level-1 violations tied to recruiting during his time at Ole Miss, while the NCAA said the school had a 'Lack of Institutional Control" during his time. Ole Miss had to vacate 33 wins during the Freeze era in Oxford because of NCAA penalties. The investigation into Freeze also found that Freeze used a school phone to contact ads associated with an escort service.


Moving Forward With Hugh Freeze At Auburn

Though some folks on the plains had their own opinions of Freeze, the overwhelming support of Hugh getting the job outweighed the negatives in the end. It's easy to get caught up in his past, but the time was right for Freeze to get a shot at redemption, especially in the SEC. He has a plan on how to turn things around on the plains, with him getting a salary pool from Auburn that will be attractive to assistant coaches.

The soap-opera that unfolded over the past two weeks with Lane Kiffin is over, with Auburn administrators making it clear that Freeze was their guy late Friday night. If you're looking for a coach who will kiss the babies and attend every social event in Auburn to market the program, Freeze is the guy. There will certainly be detractors about the hire, but officials have made it clear that they trust Freeze and his outlook for the future.

Now the real work begins, which is keeping this Auburn family close, considering the last few weeks under interim coach Carnell Williams. There has certainly been a different feeling around the program, thanks to the former Auburn running back bringing life to a team that was in the gutter.

Freeze will need to hit the ground running, with the transfer portal window opening on December 5th. As the early signing period approaches, keeping current recruits, while bringing in his own to fit the system is imperfect.

It’s not up to Hugh Freeze to change your opinion of him; he’s not trying to win over the world, just Auburn. There’s only so much he can do or say that will show how much he’s changed.

This is the right job for Hugh Freeze, so we will now wait to see how it goes.

Written by
Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series. Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football "Credit Card Scandal" along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.